Miami Green Homes


DIY HVAC Maintenance: What’s Safe and What to Avoid! – by Ray Flynn

Thank you to Ray Flynn (ray.flynn@diyguys.net) for this guest contribution:

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Photo courtesy of Pexels

Being a homeowner is a wonderful investment that brings many fulfilling rewards. Of course, it also brings many (often unexpected) costs. From plumbing to electrical issues, there are hundreds of home repairs that could break the bank. Unfortunately, HVAC repairs could be one of them. HVAC repair technicians charge up to $80 per hour, and the repairs themselves can cost hundreds of dollars. Some Miami homeowners spend thousands, depending upon the types of repairs.

Of course, it’s inevitable that every HVAC will eventually be in need of repairs. Adding further complication, some HVAC-related costs can be tax deductible while others are not. So, what is a homeowner to do? One option that many homeowners are considering more frequently is just doing it themselves. It’s no secret that do-it-yourself (DIY) home repair projects are gaining popularity, especially among women.

Before You Begin

Before embarking upon a DIY HVAC maintenance project, however, there are a few things you should know. First, actual HVAC repairs should still be left to the professionals. Otherwise, you might damage your HVAC even further and end up having to pay a professional for costly repairs anyway — or worse, an entirely new HVAC system.

Instead, the best HVAC projects to attempt on your own are fairly simple maintenance projects. When it comes to maintaining your HVAC system, there are certainly a few things you can do on your own without needing to call a professional.

Change Your Filter

Proper maintenance of your HVAC system requires that you periodically change (between 30 and 90 days) the air filter. The air filters prevent airborne particles from getting into the HVAC machinery, where they could potentially cause damage. Failure to change HVAC filters could lead to permanent damage and expensive repairs.

Here’s one bit of advice: Although changing your HVAC air filter every so often is fairly simple, choosing the right size filter when making a replacement is essential. That cannot be stressed enough. Turn off the unit before replacing the filter, and always follow the instructions for your particular HVAC unit. If you run into any difficulties, call a professional to help you.

Clean Your Unit

Another thing you might have to occasionally do is clean your HVAC system. From time to time, dirt, debris, leaves, and other natural contaminants can get inside the machinery. If these items aren’t removed in a timely manner, they can clog things up.

Additionally, while you are inspecting your HVAC system for dirt and debris or changing the air filter, you might want to give it a good cleaning. This involves checking for any holes, leaks, or blockages, inspecting the fans for wear, and wiping down and cleaning the outside of the unit.

A few more simple maintenance tips and DIY repairs to consider might include changing the blower filter at least twice a year (or more, if you live in a dusty climate), adding a programmable thermostat to help make your home more energy efficient, and cutting back any vines or other vegetation that might be growing near your HVAC system.

It’s important to care for your HVAC system. By taking proper care of it, changing the filters, and performing regular maintenance as needed, you can keep your HVAC system running reliably for years to come. Best of all, these are DIY tasks that you can do yourself, which saves you some money by not having to call a professional. But if you’re new to home improvement and/or if any repairs are actually needed, those jobs are best left to the professionals. It’s never worth harming your HVAC system just for the sake of saving a few hundred dollars.

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Best Miami Residential Architects list, March 2018 – ELA Studio/SEA @ #5

Excellent reference list by Miami Architects for their best residential architects list.

Thank you for the recognition. This is a great list with many esteemed colleagues. I am blessed and proud to be among them. Our quality and team approach really make every project great!

http://www.miamiarchitect.org/the-best-residential-architects-in-miami/

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Ready to start your own project journey with ELA Studio?



Voyage MIA article – meet Sebastian Eilert

Thank you to Voyage MIA for the feature of the day! Nice to meet you, too. 

http://voyagemia.com/interview/meet-sebastian-eilert-sebastian-eilert-architecture-south-dade-county/



What to do with a damaged wood fence from a Hurricane in Miami or South Florida.

A hurricane can leave much destruction in its wake, but even a small wind event may knock over some vegetation and fences.

Under the Florida Building code a permit is required to repair fences, so where to start? The good news is that after a strong wind event, such as Hurricane Irma, the governor has the ability to declare a state of emergency, as he did for Hurricane Irma. Besides federal aid, this status also allows municipalities to provide expedited permits for homeowners to get back to a normal stats of living.

Many municipalities accept a simplified permit application for simple items such as fences. Miami Dade has a standard detail that most municipalities will provide to homeowners to pull an “owner-builder” permit for minor repairs and replace missing sections of their standard wood fence.

 

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This detail is in compliance with the Florida building code and most contractors are familiar with this type of installation. In addition to the detail, you need a footprint of the home and boundary of the site, like an old survey. Mark or highlight the area of the fence to be replaced and provide the actual linear feet either as a side note or on a separate sheet. Make sure to reference the current building (as of this writing it the FBC 5th Edition) as the applicable reference code, again a simple note to be added to the plan.

Lastly some municipalities request an estimate of the cost of work. Get this from the contractor that is going to install the fence.

 

More damage than a wood fence? A permit will be required. Contact Sebastian Eilert Architecture to see how we can help. www.SebastianEilert.com 305.253.5786

 

 



Design highlights. The Kitchen:

Kitchens are the number one request when looking to improve an existing home and are a vital key feature of any new design. New home projects allow to create kitchens as a feature of the overall style and are comparatively easy to design to the liking of the client.

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L-shape kitchen with recessed refrigerator – design by Sebastian Eilert Architecture. More images from this project can be found HERE.

The larger challenge can be found in renovations and additions. In existing home projects, the kitchen typically represents the largest cost item, and the choice between working within the existing area versus potentially relocating the entire thing, is a first and important step to consider. A simple upgrade of finishes rarely is a viable option to bring an outdated kitchen to modern standards. Moving and removing walls to allow for an expansion typically require new plumbing and electrical work. Next are the selection of cabinet and countertop style and color. Styles are primarily defined by the doors and drawer faces as well as support legs, if applicable. Classic shaker, simplified shaker and smooth are some of the most popular choices. Look for our previous post on countertop options beyond the typical Granite.

As for the kitchen itself, the most common are L-shaped, island style, alley or a combination of them. Laying out a kitchen there are a couple of items to consider. In the design world we refer to the “kitchen triangle” as the relation between the refrigerator, the sink and the cooktop or stove; the 3 key items in preparing meals. These items want to relate in such a way that items can be moved, prepared and cooked without having to cross path with other users or long distances. Accidents happen, but when the sink and cooktop are at opposite ends, the probability increases for slips, drips and spills. Other items such as dishwasher, microwave, cleaning utensils and garbage, including separate recycling options, must also be located with thought. A kitchen is as much about looks as it is about function.

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typical triangle relations for sink, cooktop and refrigerator.

In the design layout the next choices are whether to have an inward or outward facing kitchen. This depends on the user. Some users like to do their cooking in private and then turn around to entertain. Others prefer to see outward to keep a command center while preparing meals and more. Next, there is the question of incorporated seating; a wonderful functioning option. While the 80’s boasted raised bars to have family and guests peek into the kitchen, modern design is more likely to feature either a larger integrated seating area or a slightly lowered included section of the counter or island at table height.

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kitchen with island and lowered seating/eating counter. glass and Quartz countertops – design by Sebastian Eilert Architectrure. More images from this project can be found HERE.

Lastly, there is the question of storage. When possible, a pantry is a great option to house food and other products. Installing a counter in the pantry also allows to get some smaller appliances off the main kitchen counter while keeping them in close proximity for use.

Whatever your choice, work with your design professional to create your dream kitchen. It is after all the heart of the home.



Furniture for (outdoor) Miami / South Florida

Miami is a trending town. South Beach and Brickell feature a plethora of high rises, one sleeker than the next; seeking cutting edge contemporary furniture to match. Other places historic charm calls for old world style and serene durability. Yet all of these styles still seek a unique place: the outdoors. Here the style becomes secondary and durability takes over. No matter the design, the South Florida outdoor climate is harsh. Heat and humidity provide minimal opportunity for protection as may be accustomed from northern more climates. What is outside, will slowly demise.

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Designers have contemplated many solutions and each have their own success – and failure. Permanent installations out of concrete or keystone are frequently bulky and attract mildew. The latter can be easily cleaned and the essential shape and function of the design maintained. In some cases the aging by the weather may be intended as part of the design. One of the great long lasting examples can be found at Coral Castle (website).

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Plastics and metals are typically deteriorating the fastest. They offer the most versatile designs, but at an environmental cost. Humidity really goes to town here and high design pieces are best kept conditioned when not in use.

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Composite materials are another option popular with architects and designers. These materials are engineering to withstand extreme weather as well as mold and mildew. Most perform reasonably well. This approach has also grown popular with material choices for decks and patio finishes, as well as sleek 3D design elements and backdrops.

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Lastly all natural materials such as teak and tropical hardwoods are a many designers favorite. These materials must be treated and maintained in order to continue to function and look as intended. Again the design intention may include a certain aging in place, but the functionality and structural integrity will be hard to maintain, even with selective rotting.

With many great examples that are picture ready when completed, maintenance and protection are key to ensure a long life for outdoor furniture in Miami.



Permits and board approvals! Miami overview and nuances…

Often referred to as the “necessary evil”, getting a building permit is a crucial part of any project. While the process may pose a considerable time impact, it is important to remember that the primary objective of a building permit is to ensure that safe structures are provided. Beyond the building code approvals, zoning codes also guide the local flair and style of many neighborhoods and cities. The check and balance of this process should instead be looked at as a safety net for the owner, to ensure that the hired license professionals are indeed doing their job – beyond just design.

SEA has been blessed with a plethora of approvals in the last weeks and we are celebrating alongside our clients;

The building permit process and requirements in the respective municipality are typically common knowledge, however some of the nuances that are required may not be completely known and can add substantial time commitment to the permitting process. Some of the more common approvals we help to obtain are the Coral Gables Board of Architects approval – a process that requires a preliminary and a full approval to present to a panel of volunteer architects, Historic board approval (typically in Coral Gables, Miami Beach and City of Miami) – and special Planning and Zoning approvals, such as the recent success in Miami Shores.

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(Miami Dade County Building Permit Application)

Following are some typical permit applications available online in Miami Dade County; these must be singed and notarized by the respective parties:

County: http://www.miamidade.gov/permits/library/building-permit.pdf

Miami: http://www.miamigov.com/nets/docs/permits/buildingpermitapplication.pdf

Miami Beach: http://web.miamibeachfl.gov/building/scroll.aspx?id=37842

Coral Gables: http://coralgables.com/modules/showdocument.aspx?documentid=741