Software can assist your home improvement planning
By John Bruce
A down economy is driving most people to bunker down in their homes instead of moving, and more homeowners are taking on remodeling and building projects. Here is software to consider purchasing that could help with both DIY and contracted projects.
Home Designer Suite 2012, $98
The download version of this highly rated software lets you use advanced design tools to visualize what your home improvement project will look like with 3D models and virtual tours. Home Designer Suite 2012 can help you plan and estimate the costs before you begin. Create a new room, bath, kitchen or other space. Myriad cabinet combinations, countertops, appliances and fixtures, as well as custom colors, materials and more are a keystroke away.
Home & Landscape Design Premium NexGen3, $99
This packaged software includes planning and tools for home improvements as well as landscape and backyard beautification. Apply paint, carpet and other materials to a surface, room, or your entire house with a mouse click. Choose default materials and colors for doors, windows and more before you start designing. Being able to measure distances within your drawing enables planning of furniture placement. User-controlled sun angles and shadows add detailing, as with a photograph. You can opt to print a design as a two- or three-dimensional picture.
Instant Architect 12, $69.95
This packaged software is geared to both the ground-up design of a home as well as a kitchen remodeling. This no-frills design package doesn't feature some of the imaging capabilities of other software and does not allow you to build upon existing floor plans or import your own.
HGTV Home Design & Remodeling Suite, $49
This packed software has wizards to design bathrooms, kitchens, or a home itself. A unique feature is that you can edit the templates that you design through the wizards after they are implemented into the design. This beginner's software is great for creating a new living space, adding a fireplace, making your home energy efficient with new appliances, replacing countertops, cabinetry and fixtures, and enhancing any room in your house with a brand new look.
OneNote 2010, $79 after trial
Homeowners rely on mountains of emails, lists of bookmarked websites, piles of catalogs, and numerous notebooks to store their project information. Folks who've gone through this know how quickly vital information gets lost. OneNote might help you organize your home improvement project, from research and budget to calendar and contractors. A 60-day trial version is free.
Free energy website shows estimated savings
What can be done to hold the line on your energy costs? How can you manage these costs this summer and be prepared for winter? The Energy Star Home Advisor website offers free tips and it's simple and anonymous. The site provides a summary of estimated savings in total energy, electricity, fuel use, and carbon emissions associated with custom-recommended measures, based on the typical energy use of homes in the user's area.
Typical recommendations include sealing air leaks, adding insulation, replacing old heating and cooling equipment, installing a high-efficiency water heater, installing a programmable thermostat, and replacing lights and appliances with Energy Star models.