In today’s home-building market, the design choices you make as a homeowner should fit your household’s lifestyle and locale. Increasingly, those choices are becoming environmentally friendly, which is a good thing for our planet and wallets.
Regardless of whether you’re considering building a new Florida home, or are about to begin the process, lend us your attention. We’ve compiled a cheat-sheet of some of the top features we’re seeing throughout the industry and from our own customers. Here are 10 can’t-live-without features you should consider for your new home.
The systems that function invisibly behind your drywall and internal forest of 2 X 4 studs wouldn’t seem to merit a ton of extra thought. But choosing the predictable and pedestrian isn’t always the best way to go with these components.
The better a home’s foundational systems, the more comfortably and smartly it lives. So take time to consider the unsexy — we’ll admit that with you — mechanical and structural bones of your potential new home. The best part? Thanks to ever-evolving technology and research, many of these systems will continue to become even more efficient.
Tankless Water Heater
Know that giant white glass and steel cylinder in the basement or garage of your current home? With dire warning language pasted to its exterior? It’s no longer your only water-heating option for a new home.
A tankless water heater is a fraction of the size of a conventional water heater — more like the size of your fuse box — and it’s also wall-mounted, so it can be tucked out of view without hogging the area where it’s located; typically, a storage or laundry-room closet.
The genius of tankless is heating water on demand rather than constantly keeping hundreds of gallons piping hot. Operating on-demand also cools your power bill. Plus, your family can fire up the dishwasher, clothes washer and every bathtub or shower all at the same time without ever running out of hot water!
Let’s assume you’ve done your research and have decided that a tankless water heater isn’t for you, or isn’t the best choice for the new home you’re building. That’s cool. We get it. But, you’d still like to be as energy efficient as possible.
The answer is a water re-circulator. This system heats the water already idling in your plumbing. pipes You get near-instant hot water, which is far more efficient than waiting on hot water to arrive at the kitchen faucet from the conventional water heater — all while standing at the sink as cold water runs wastefully down the drain.
If you’re new to Florida from a colder climate, you know how important insulation can be to a home’s comfort, particularly in winter. That’s true even in the Sunshine State.
Here, you’ll spend far more time in air conditioning. But proper insulation also buttresses your house from summer heat. And yes, depending where you live in Florida, you’ll experience occasional cool snaps. So focus on maintaining consistent interior comfort year-around.
The best way to do that is to be sure your new Florida home boasts the maximum amount of good-quality insulation all over the house. You’ll see fewer spikes in your power bill, and make fewer tweaks to your thermostat.
It’s the best thing since sliced bread! We’re only half-kidding. This is for those of you who despise lugging upright vacuum cleaners, or heavy canister cleaners all over the house.
A whole-house vacuuming system simplifies an onerous chore. Instead of dragging a vacuum cleaner everywhere, you simply plug a hose and sweeper into a special outlet in each room. Vacuum exactly as you would with a traditional cleaner, then move to the next room.
Whole-house vacuuming systems mimic plumbing. Chutes and pipes behind your home’s walls shuttle dust and grime from each room into a central, easy-emptying collection canister. The latter is wall-mounted, usually in a garage or basement. A central motor — also discreetly installed — powers the entire system without disturbing the peace.
Only kitchens get as much of a daily workout as bathrooms in our homes, so it makes sense to improve their elements when we can. Once again, the theme is environmentally friendly and energy-efficient. It doesn’t hurt that these suggestions can be realized with style.
Yes, you read that correctly. Gone is the singular power flush of toilets past — as your only design option, at least. Today’s toilets are less thirsty than their predecessors and low-water toilets have become the default installation for builders and customers alike.
But wait — how about more than one way to flush the same toilet? You now have that option if you choose dual-flush toilets. One button summons minimal water to clean the bowl. The second button summons more of a tidal wave. Having a choice allows you to maintain a sparkling toilet bowl AND be smart about your water usage.
Shower Heads That Cheat
If toilets can function more efficiently, so can shower heads. The daily shower requires more water than a one-time toilet flush, but these shower heads are downright parsimonious. Rather than blasting you with 3.5 gallons of water a minute, low-flow shower heads use air to boost the effect of one gallon of water a minute.
The result is a Niagara Falls illusion. You get your daily cleanse and your water bill shrinks.
Heated Bathroom Floors
After the whole-house vacuuming system, here’s the next-best thing since sliced bread.
Flooring choices such as ceramic and stone tile do a great job combating bathroom moisture, but aren’t always the most welcoming underfoot, especially in cooler months or late at night, when your idea of a comfortable pit stop doesn’t include sliding across an iceberg.
You don’t have to with a radiant-heating system! These are wire-and-mesh mats installed under tile. They require a certain electric current (your electrician will know) and many come with thermostats and timers so you can control temperature, and the times that you use it.
If you or someone in your household uses a space heater to take the chill off cold bathroom surfaces, a radiant-heating system may do the trick better. Plus, you won’t run the risk of tripping over the space heater, or allowing it to stray too close to showers, bathtubs or puddles.
Three random choices
That aren’t random in performance or decorative impact. We’ve isolated them here because they’re home-buyer favorites. Timeless design features, in fact. And smart, hard-working and environmentally kind.
There are a lot — thousands? — of tile options for today’s home builders and customers. Think of a specific texture and color, and someone probably has made and sold it. As we speak, glass tiles are having a moment and we think they’ll continue to do so for several good reasons.
Like ceramic and stone tiles, glass tiles come in all sizes and shapes. The difference is their shiny, glitzy appearance. They’re perfect as focal points and embellishment, and can be combined with other types of tile to create murals, custom borders and back splashes.
Installed properly, glass tiles are as impervious as ceramic or stone tile. They’re also a smart environmental choice because they’re made from a natural substance.
Butcher-Block Kitchen Counters
Few design choices are as classic as wood. It marries well with almost every decor and, treated well, will acquire a burnished patina that improves with age. As a utilitarian kitchen surface, wood goes back centuries — it’s how the butcher-block look began — but is enjoying a renaissance thanks to today’s emphasis on natural, renewable building materials.
Smooth wooden counters are simple, always appropriate and don’t require chemical disclaimers. Maple is the top choice. Other species offer variations in graining, color and durability.
No, you shouldn’t spill a liter of red wine or acidic tomato sauce on butcher-block counters. An occasional wipe-down with neutral food-grade oil probably is a good idea.
Worried you’ll drop a piping-hot iron skillet? That’ll probably leave a mark. But chances are it’ll look more like a day’s work rather than a huge fracture that forces you to replace your entire countertop.
Folding Patio Doors
Living in Florida means living and entertaining outdoors. Odds are you’re targeting a porch, patio, summer kitchen or pool area for your new home. If so, folding glass patio doors are an awesome option over French doors or glass sliders.
Full disclosure: folding patio doors aren’t inexpensive. But they are more versatile than the more traditional doors. Folding doors operate on a track. They can slide open, disappear into a vertical, out-of-the-way bundle on one side of your exterior opening, and save major space.
Ready to incorporate all or some of these 10 design features into a new custom Florida home? ICI Homes is ready to help. Start here.