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Sunday, November 29, 2009

Protect your home with simple measures

Although Kerala has one of the lowest crime-rates among the States in India, our wealthy NRI homes sometimes fall prey to thieves and burglary, especially when the family is away. An important step in preventing burglary and increasing your home protection is making sure that your home is as secure as possible. Many homes are easy targets for burglaries without you even realizing it, especially new homes.

Simple everyday measures can be taken to increase your home security without even purchasing a security system. The following is a home protection checklist that hits on important security issues:

  • Burglars prefer to target empty residences
Piled up newspapers is a sign that you are not at home, so make sure you stop your newspapers when you go on vacation and have a neighbor pick up your mail. Although it is a bit difficult, it's a good idea to leave your drapes/curtains slightly open and set your television, radio, and lights on timers so it looks like someone is home. If you can, leave a car in your driveway, even if it's your relative's.
  • 90% of all intruders choose not to enter a residence that is well lit
Be sure that you have lights installed around your home, particularly around your front door, driveway and rear porch or patio. Most intruders don't get the idea to break into your home until you give it to them.
  • Most burglars look for something worth stealing
Making valuables visible from outside the home, such as having bikes, tools and appliances visible from outside and your shades and curtains open to view home electronics and other valuable items. Be sure to put your home to bed at night by making sure all shades and curtains are closed and all points of entry are locked. It's also a good idea to get in the habit of locking first floor windows.
  • Burglars observe your daily behaviors
Regular routines give burglars an estimated amount of time to complete their job, which allows them to be more careful without getting caught. Try not to be too predictable with your daily schedule, come home earlier or leave late for work on some days. Everyone likes to have a spare key hidden, but choose your spot carefully. Avoid common spots like under the doormat, above doorways or anywhere close to the door.
  • Over 40% of home burglaries are termed by police as "no force" entries
Leaving your home with windows or doors unlocked or even open is an invitation for burglars to come in. You and your family have to practice and remind each other to always close and lock all doors and windows when leaving the house unattended for several hours.
  • Don't let them know who you are
It may go without saying, but it is worth repeating: a lost key with no address is worthless to a thief but it's like a treasure map if your address or name is on key.

If you have installed a Home security device like a burglar alarm, remember to lock the door and arm your security system. Locks and security alarms cannot provide home protection unless they are used properly.

As in many developed countries, you can also enlist the help of neighbors and start a neighborhood night watch in your place in Kerala. A neighborhood watch is a support group in which all neighbors in your community help each other by watching each other's homes. Neighborhood night watches are especially great for communities where there is a high crime rate or many elderly people who live around the area. A burglar will not be able to get away as quickly if he has more than one person keeping an eye out. In fact, having a neighborhood watch may be enough to deter an intruder all together.

Remember that your home is the only environment where you have control over who can get close to you or your family. Most people only think about making their home secure after a burglary has occurred.

To determine how secure your home is, think like a robber. Below are a few points to consider in order preventing break-in.

How do thieves enter your house?

  • By picking the padlock/ grille using a screwdriver or any sharp object
  • By opening the window grill using a jack
  • By sawing/ cutting the padlock using a cutter
  • By entering through the roof (altering the roof tiles)
  • By entering through the ceiling after breaking it
  • By entering through open windows, doors or gates
  • By using duplicate/ master keys
  • By posing as bogus officers
  • By entering through an unoccupied neighbouring house or shop
How can you prevent house Break-Ins?

  • Install a door viewer at your main door and observe other safety precautions such as having your door chained with a padlock
  • Your exterior doors should be constructed of solid wood or metal for the most protection against break-ins
  • Leave your lights on when you are out so as to give the impression that there is someone at home
  • Have adequate lightings outside your house. Keep your front and back porch lights on (advise to be from 7:00pm to 7:00am)
  • Ask your neighbours to keep an eye on your house while you are out
  • Ensure that all gates, doors and windows are locked before you go out or go to bed
  • Do not hide keys outside your premises. House breakers know all these hiding places
  • Equip your house with a security system
  • Ensure that your garden is clean – cut grass and trim bushes to eliminate hiding places
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Saturday, November 28, 2009

Creating a Home Theater

In Kerala or elsewhere, most of us don't remember the last time we watched a movie in a theater. 24 hour channels and almost simultaneous DVD releases of movies have made it more comfortable for us to watch our favorite movies at home instead of having to queue up at a theater. Work pressure and other time constraints contribute to the decision of staying at home to watch a movie. This is why many modern home builders in Kerala opt for a theater experience at home- the Home Theater!
Home theater is difficult to define because in actuality it's really just a vague term for how you approach home entertainment. Generally speaking, a home theater system is a combination of electronic components designed to recreate the experience of watching a movie in a theater. The image and the sound, together with the right equipment, can create the ultimate home theater experience.

If you're looking to design a home theater system, you have a lot of decisions to make. First youʼll need to decide what room you want to install your home theater and how far you want to go. Turning a family room or flexible space into a media/TV room is a lot different than creating a fully functional home theater.

Once youʼve decided the level of home entertainment you want from your new home, then you can begin to select the necessary components to create your own personal home theater. What you choose for your home theater system will depend on how much money you are willing to allot to this space and how important certain areas of performance are to you. So whether you are planning on spending Rs.25000 or Rs.25,00,000 you should spend time understanding what each component does, so you can choose the right equipment to satisfy your audio and visual needs.

Basic Home Theater Components

The basic necessities to create your home theater are a 27-inch or larger television, movie playing device (DVD is recommended), speakers, a surround sound capable stereo receiver, all the cables and connectors and a high-quality surge protector. If you are building anew home, it is a good idea to spend a little extra money for better quality equipment. Remember, you get what you pay for.

Think of your home theater system as if it is a jigsaw puzzle. Many pieces fit together to complete the presentation. The pieces must be in the right places. With a home theater system, the pieces can be placed in many different positions to work together producing theater-like picture and realistic sound. If you know a little about each of the components, you will have an easier time deciding what you want.

The primary parts of a home theater system:


With the television, the first thing that you are going to choose is the size and shape. For all the new movies in wide screen format, you will need a rectangular TV with a 16:9 ratio to view them in the original format. A traditional TV is square with a 4:3 ratio and will show the wide screen smaller with black screen above and below the movie. The best advice on the size you choose is the largest you can afford. 27 inches is probably the smallest you should accept.

The distance between the screen and where you sit to view it should be equal to about three times the screen size for optimal viewing. So for instance, you have a 40-inch TV, it should be ten feet (120 inches) from you for best viewing. With this in mind, it may be to your advantage to layout your floor plan in the room with the TV ahead of time.

Decide where the TV will be and where people will be sitting. Measure the distance and choose a TV size accordingly.

Projection TV - Front or Rear
Projection TVs work differently than conventional TVs. They form a small image on a device inside the projector, either a CRT or LCD, and then shine that image onto a large screen located elsewhere.

There are two types of projecting TVs - rear or reflective projection and front or transmissive projection. With a rear projection, the screen is located within the TV box itself. Light reflects off the projection display panel and is then projected onto the screen. On a front projection TV there is a separate screen which, allows for greater size that sends the picture across the room to a screen, much like a traditional movie projector.

Both systems have four basic parts -a projector, screen (separate or built-in), control panel (separate or built-in) and a sound system (separate or built-in).

Most rear projection TVs for home theater systems tend to look like very large- screen (up to 80-inches) conventional televisions. Each one is basically a large box that contains all of the above parts, while front projection TVs are spread out across your room in four components. Cost for either system starts around Rs.75,000 and escalate to well over Rs.25,00,000 (for a front projection TV).

Plasma and LCD TVs are the newest television technologies. They have excellent picture quality. Plasma TVs have larger screens, better viewing angles, superior image refresh rates, and lower costs. They are a perfect choice for home theaters.

LCD TVs are rapidly improving, but still have problems such as ghosting trails on fast moving images, small screens, and higher costs. However, they do have longer life spans, lower weight, lower power consumption, and no burn-in risk.

HDTV (High Definition Television)
High-definition televisions carry a more detailed image with a digital signal, which is encoded with surround sound information. All of the televisions mentioned before are available in HDTV. Some of them might require a separate HDTV decoding tuner though. These televisions can be viewed much closer than ones that do not have high definition because they have such a high resolution. These TVs will become necessary in the future because the FCC now requires television programming to be broadcast in digital format.

The screen is what you are actually viewing your home theater on. There are different materials used to make these screens by the manufacturers. Most are matte-finished screens or acetate sheets with complex technologies to improve brightness and clarity. Knowing which type of screen you want will clear up a lot of issues before you make the purchase and bring it home.

The receiver is basically the brain in most home theater systems. All of the audio comes together here. The receiver decodes signals from the inputs (DVD player, satellite dish, cable television) and routes them to the proper outputs (television and speakers). A good receiver has inputs and outputs, a built-in timer, surround sound capabilities, built-in amplifiers and equalizers. Prices range from Rs.50,000 to Rs.2,50,000. Be sure that the receiver you choose has at least 100 continuous watts per channel and enough outputs for all of your speakers.

Pre-amp and power amps can be bought separately, but most receivers come with them. The pre-amp equalizes the audio signal while the power amp boosts it. Purchasing them separately allows you the ability to fine-tune and upgrade individual speakers. You are more able to get superior sound at high volumes this way, but the extra cost can range Rs.50,000 to Rs.5,00,000 per unit.

A controller replaces the receiver in a state-of-the-art home theater. What the controller will do that a receiver will not is control both the audio and the video. You will need a separate tuner for radio stations if you use a controller.

CD Player
To listen to your favorite music, you will need a good quality CD player. They can be purchased in a one player or a two-piece players, where the unit that houses and spins the discs is separate from the DAP (Digital Audio Processor) where the disc information is processed. Since the DAP can be used with other components, you will get more usage if you use separate components. The DAP has several input and output jacks.

DVD Player
One of the most popular parts of the home theater system is the DVD Player. DVD's (Digital Versatile Discs) are a versatile multimedia platform for music, movies, and computers. They have better picture quality and most have Dolby Digital or DTS sound that you like at the theater. Most DVD movies have an on-screen menu to watch certain parts, learn about the movie, and more very quickly. High-end players are usually compatible with audio CDs and equipped with viewing options in letterbox for wide screen TVs and standard.

VCRs still remain very popular because of the ability to record. They do not have the wide screen or surround sound capabilities though. The tapes will also eventually wear out.

The DSS (Digital Satellite System) is not like the satellite dish of yesterday. It is much smaller and more technically advanced. The signals they receive are much better giving superior imaging like laser disc players with CD quality sound. It is easy to set them up and tune them in. They can handle six-channel surround sound and high definition television. The monthly cost is about the same as cable.

Sound is half of the experience of the home theater system. You should try to get the best speakers possible. They should be capable of reproducing a wide range of frequencies without distortion. Listen to the speakers before you purchase them. Follow the rule that no two speakers sound alike, so choose by personal preference.

Your home theater should have six speakers or more to create the best sound. These should include left, right, and center speakers across the front. There should be a couple of surrounds and a subwoofer or bass for the low, loud vibration feel.

Cables and Interconnects
As unimportant as it may seem, cables and interconnects can be the difference between a good and a great system. This is true no matter what type of system you choose. Unrestricted flow of the output through the cables is important. If the cables are not the right quality or type, they will not allow this. Select heavy gauge cables and gold plated connectors.

If you are concerned about the appearance of these cables, go with a flat speaker wire. They are as thin as a credit card yet flexible enough to make corners. They can be mounted on walls or ceilings. You can wallpaper or paint right over them.

Remote Control
Try to buy a universal remote control to avoid clutter and confusion. Pretty much every piece of electronic equipment comes with a remote now, and after a while there are so many you can't keep track. Universal remotes are pre-programmed to control many devices by many different manufacturers. They come with easy to follow instructions so setup is quick and easy. A remote with an illuminated keypad or backlight is the best option. If you have equipment that is in a closed cabinet, choose a remote that is radio frequency-capable.

All-in-one systems
If it is easier for you to choose a package system than trying to sort out and purchase all the components you need separately, there are all-in-one home-theater-in-a-box packages available. These can cost anywhere from Rs.15,000 to Rs.1,50,000. You should get pretty much everything you need for a basic setup. Most are relatively easy to setup and install, but know that most will not allow upgrades or integration in the future

Tips for setting up the system

The important thing to remember when you start with your home theater is that you want it to feel as close to a real movie cinema experience as possible. Put the system front and center at eye level, rather than off to the side. Sound travels better from the speakers if they are mounted on a wall or set on stands, not on top of bookshelves or cabinets. The three front speakers should be aligned with the television screen and the two in the rear should be one on each side of the listener just a little above ear level.

If you must stack the equipment, leave a minimum of 8 inches between them and the wall to allow for ventilation and easy installation. The receivers will create the most heat so put them on top of the stack or better yet, on their own shelf.

Power cords can cause interference and decreased signal quality for cables and wires. Don't bundle your wires and cables or place them close to the power cords. A notable tip, test your speakers before you trim the speaker wire to avoid cutting them to short and finding that you don't like the sound and have to move them.
Hiding speakers in the ceiling and walls is a great idea in most rooms, but in a home theater, you may want to keep the speakers away from those surfaces. In a home theater freestanding speakers that stand on the floor and are housed in their own cabinets or box enclosures are the best option, because this type of speaker is specifically tuned to its enclosure and produces a better sound quality than other types of speakers. The only drawback to freestanding speakers is that they take up additional space. In new construction, you can have your contractor/designer build the speakers into the design of the room.

For example, they can be contained inside architectural details such as columns and prosceniums, or they can be placed behind walls that have been covered with acoustical fabric.

Modifying existing rooms into a Home Theater

Tips for odd-shaped rooms
Since not everyone's entertainment room has the ideal layout for a home theater system, we've come up with a few tips to help you deal with odd-shaped rooms.

  • If your room accommodates it, try to make sure your listening position is somewhere in the middle of the room (i.e. away from the back wall) to improve the front soundstage and help the surround speakers work better.
  • Position the main speakers so that they fire into the length of the room, rather than the width.
  • If you want the best surround effects, place the surround speakers on floor-stands. You'll want them to be at roughly equal distances from your listening position.
  • If stands aren't an option, you can also wall-mount your surround speakers. You can even mount them to a joist in the ceiling, if you've got a ceiling-mount bracket, though your speakers might not sound their best when placed that high. Again, you'll want your surrounds to be roughly equal distances from your listening position.
  • For a really clean look, try in-wall or in-ceiling surrounds. Check out our placement guidelines for these types of speakers, or watch our short in-wall speaker installation video to get an idea of what's involved.
  • If you have to place the rear speakers at different distances from your listening position, then you can use the speaker levels in your receiver to help compensate for that difference, or rely on your receiver's auto-calibration to handle that for you. It'll work best if the difference in distance is 5 feet or less.
  • You can also adjust speaker levels to compensate for differences in distance between your front left and right speakers. However, we recommend you try and place them equidistant from your listening position, or within a few inches of that, whenever possible. You'll notice more subtle differences in volume and timing in the front soundstage than you will in the back.
Below we've come up with a few simple diagrams so that you can see our tips in action.

Window in a bad place

Here we moved the speaker to the back to avoid a window. You'd probably need to increase the left surround speaker's levels on your receiver to compensate. Alternatively, you could mount the speaker higher up, above the window.

Door in a bad place

Here we moved the speaker to the back to avoid a door. Again, you'd probably need to increase the right surround speaker's levels on your receiver to compensate. You could also mount the left speaker further back, so that the two speakers are equal distances from your listening position.

Diamond layout

Here we placed the listening position in the middle of the room, so the front speakers fire lengthwise into the room. We also mounted the surround speakers in the corners of the room, at equal distances from the listening area.

Open floor plan

Again, we placed the listening position in the middle of the room with the front speakers firing lengthwise into the room, and the surround speakers mounted on the side walls at equal distances from the listening area.

L-shaped room

In this L-shaped plan, we chose a space clear of doors and windows, and placed the listening position in the middle. The front speakers are firing lengthwise into the space, with the surround speakers mounted on the side walls at equal distance from the listening area.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Painting your home

When it comes to designing the interior of your home, a key element is choosing the right colour scheme for each room in your home. When you plan on painting the walls and ceilings in your new home, it would be very helpful to brush up on some basic information about colours.

We all know that colours are made up of three primary colours or hues, in various combinations — red, blue and green. We also know that secondary colours are made up from mixing these primary colours. What makes our world so colourful are the tints, tones, values and shades of the basic key hues.
Given below are some terms used regarding colours in Home Painting:

• Hue is another word for colour.
• Tint means the pure colour mixed with white. For example, red mixed with white produces different kinds of reds and pinks.
• Tone of a colour means that the pure colour is mixed with grey.
• Value of a colour means the lightness and darkness of a shade achieved by the sheer or deeper application of the colour.
• Shade of a colour means that the pure colour is mixed with black.

When it comes time to painting your walls and ceilings or deciding on a colour scheme for your home décor, it is always helpful to collect chips and swatches of your favorite colours and mix and match until you decide what colours look good together. Home furnishings are a great way to add colour and texture to your home and can be moved easily too.

Choosing the right colour scheme
Colour scheme helps you create harmony between colours in your home décor. A colour wheel can be quite useful in deciding a colour scheme for your home because it allows you to compare complimentary colours. There are also plenty of interactive colour wheel tools and software available online for you to use. The use of a colour wheel makes choosing the combination of colours for painting your walls, accents, furnishings, furniture and accessories much easier.

Here are some tips that you can use to help you decide the right colour scheme for your home:

• Monochromatic colour scheme uses only one colour throughout. Variety is introduced by using various tints, tones, values and shades of that key colour and different textures.
• Complimentary colour scheme uses two colours placed opposite to each other on the colour wheel, their tints, tones, shades and values such as yellow and violet. This scheme is quite bold and lend a dramatic touch to the home décor.

• Analogous colour schemes use three hues placed adjacent to each other on the colour wheel but use either combination of warm colours only or combination of cool colours only.
• Triadic colour schemes use three hues placed consecutively or at equal distances from each other such as red, yellow and blue, their tints, tones, shades and values.
• Keep in mind when choosing your colour scheme that white and pale colours reflect light to make a room appear larger and dark colours make a room appear cozier and smaller.
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Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Bathroom Layouts

There are three basic layouts for bathrooms-

a. One-wall Layout
b. Two-wall Layout
c. Three-wall Layout

The layout depends on how the three elements of a bathroom are placed within- the wash basin, the toilet/water closet and the shower/bath-tub.
  • One-wall layout.
One-wall baths have the toilet, basin, and combination shower/tub plumbing aligned along one wall, making for a relatively long, narrow bathroom. One-wall layouts are often used where the simplest solution is to cut off the "end" of a long room and dedicate it to bath fixtures. You may find extra fixtures, such as a bidet, a separate tub, and a separate shower in a one-wall bath, but it's not common.
  • Two-wall layout.
Two-wall baths usually have the toilet and basin on one wall and the shower/tub combo (or separate shower and tub) on the other. You might also find the toilet on one wall and the shower/tub and the sink on the other, depending on the length of each wall. A two-wall layout offers a desirable sense of enclosure, but care must be taken to ensure that fixtures are placed far enough from each other and from the door for safety and comfortable use.
  • Three-wall layout.

A three-wall layout, with the toilet on one wall, basin on another, and combination shower/tub on the third, is a space-conserving solution that can put every fixture within a step of the others. It is also the layout usually used in a master bath with numerous extra fixtures such as a bidet, more than one basin, and a separate tub and shower. If you have to remodel your bath in the future and want to install a number of new upgrades, a room that is already plumbed in the three-wall layout may be the easiest to work with.

How to Save Money on Bathroom Materials

Bathroom fixtures and materials have a wide range of price-range. In many cases, you can use your creativity to mimic the expensive features at a lesser cost. Given below are a few examples:

  • High-end fixtures and fittings.
You can't turn a standard tub into a jacuzzi for four or make a gravity-assist toilet work like a pressure-assist model, but you can find fixtures that mimic the look of costlier designs. Traditionally styled fixtures and fittings are widely available at all price points, so look carefully at the high-priced models, and then seek out the more affordable looks in the same general style. Contemporary innovations, such as one-piece elongated-bowl toilets, are harder to replicate at modest prices, but you can skimp elsewhere if you can't do without them.
  • Marble/Granite vanity countertops.
Marble/Granite slabs are the top-of-the-line choice, but as with diamonds, it's finding one large, intact piece that's so costly. You can get the same look for less if you opt for large marble tiles set flush to each other. For even less, you can choose "cultured" marble, which is marble dust bonded into a solid slab, or, for still less, select a laminate countertop with a faux- marble pattern.
  • Handmade, custom-colored, imported ceramic wall tiles.
If they're too costly to use throughout the wall, use them in tile borders and accents. Choose a compatible plain tile for most of the installation, and save the custom pieces for eye- level areas such as the backsplash or a border around a window.
  • Luxury flooring.
Marble flooring may be out of reach, but ceramic tiles with a faux-marble look or handsome vinyl flooring are good-looking, affordable alternatives.
  • Custom cabinetry.
Many vanity and storage cabinets come in such a wide array of stock sizes and shapes that they assure a virtually custom fit, so use stock/modular cabinets wherever you can. If your budget says irul or anjili but your heart says teak or mahogany, you may prefer to paint rather than stain your cabinets to disguise the more prominent grains of the lower-cost woods.

Bottom line: Whatever the look you like, you can probably find similar looks within your budget.

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