home improvement technology

What emerging technologies are making your jobs easier?

Some things never change. Plumbers still rely on wrenches, roofers have their trusty hammer and nails and electricians never leave home without a good pair of wire strippers. Those old standbys will never get replaced, but most professionals are now including high-tech gadgets and digital equipment in their tool belts to make their jobs safer and more efficient. As each new tool reaches the industry, home improvement professionals must decide which ones become indispensable and which ones are thrown to the curb.

Why We’re Asking:

New technology is always aimed at making some process better, from new software that makes remodeling simpler to breakthrough adhesives that double the security of plumbing connections. But, just because something is new doesn’t make it better.

We want to get past the hype and find out what emerging technologies are truly making an impact in the world of home improvement and repair. So, we’re turning to our panel of experts to ask what new technologies they are excited about, which ‘improvements’ turned out to be flops and what we can expect in the future.

So experts, it’s time to weigh in:

What emerging technologies are making your jobs easier?

Do you have a favorite new gadget that you now consider essential?
How have new technologies changed the way you do your job?
What type of technology do you find most useful (software, tools, communication devices, etc.)?
Are there any new technologies that you are excited for to come out?
Are there new tools or technologies that are particularly bad or ones that impede your work?

Experts, post your answers in the comment field below!



  • Greg Chick @ Ramona's Plumber 02/13/12

    I am sorry to say it is none other than my iPhone. I use the phone to answer the call or E mail, then the Calendar to mark it , alarm to remind me, the note on event to remind me the details I need to be prepared, the GPS to find it, the recorder to take notes at first meeting, the camera to document, e mail to send myself the files, internet to search products to show customer, and file it all away in a sync-able package. For Solar orientation the compass app is great!. I have not even gotten into third party apps yet! I am not even a Geek.

  • Alan Hilsabeck Jr 02/13/12

    As a Designer, I wear a different type of “tool belt” but the one I wear is equally important in the overall design and its outcome. In the past, my tool belt was comprised of Pens, Pencils, Drafting equipment, Drawing Board, Scale, Trace Paper, Colored Pencils, Markers, and the list goes on. Less than 10 years ago, almost all of this has been replaced with a Mouse, Keyboard, and a Monitor along with great CAD and Design programs here at the office. Five years ago, I was able to successfully pack all of this and take it with me on my laptop, and today on my IPad2. Times sure have changed and so has my job, all because of Emerging Technology.

    What also has changed are my clients demands and expectations. Once the Professional with the keys to the Design World with clients relying solely on me to provide all of the great ideas, resources, and project / product images and design has in a very short time been replaced with me sharing the keys with my client. I find myself recently having to not only keep pace with my client but try to keep ahead of them when it comes to both access to the “tools of my profession” but also to make sure they still need me and don’t replace me with technology that is now available for them also. Along with this technology, the client of today expects that “HGTV Reveal” simply by a stroke across the tablet and if I cannot provide that, they will find someone who can.

    I love the advancements and the use of the computer, IPad, Cell Phone and many programs and applications each of them have in helping me in my day to day business. Each of them have their advantages and make my job both easier and more efficient and improve by leaps and bounds each and every day.

    Sometimes I wonder who is really running my business…is it me or is it the machine!

  • Grand View Builders 02/14/12

    We use Energy Star appliances in all of our Grand View Builder community homes, which include all sorts of features that no home would be complete without! Some of these features include efficient heating and cooling equipment that is far more durable and requires less maintenance than standard models. Our high performance windows have protective coatings and improved frame assemblies, to help keep heat in during winter and out during the summer, also blocking the damaging ultraviolet sunlight that can discolor carpets and furnishings.

    Additionally at Grand View, we thoroughly enjoy all of the communication tools that are now at our disposal. We utilize a blog, Facebook and Twitter accounts all to keep up with prospective home-buyers as well as our satisfied customers. It’s a way to feel more personally involved with the people we do our hard work for!

  • Dawn Ohnstad 02/14/12

    The coolest new thing I have have found besides my iPad is an App for it called, Open Home. As a Realtor, one of the things we least enjoy doing is holding Open Houses, however, ironically, in the recent uptick in activity in the market, they have become a much more important part of our job than previously. One of the frustrations as an agent is that people coming through are hesitant to give out their names or contact information, which is fine if they already have an agent (in fact it is advisable), but if they do not, then getting this info is important as they are potential clients going forward, and potential people to follow up with for our seller.

    The Open Home App has simple boxes for the people to enter their own names and email addresses for me to send them the listing brochure right from the app. It allows me to schedule follow up and enter notes about each visitor connected to a photo of the house I was holding open…fantastic organizing and followup tool. Sellers love it as it shows them that you are using the latest technology to be more efficient, visitors like it because they seem more willing to tap an iPad with their info, than to put a pen to paper…..very cool.

  • Kris @ HouseBuying-Tips 02/14/12

    For a homeowner the social aspect of the web has made life so much easier. First, you can do so much research about a contractor, a product, or even a home. Second, you can share your experiences so quickly these days – and read other people’s experiences. It has made being a consumer so much easier.

    Personally, I don’t bother reading any testimonials on a website these days. I search for the name of the company or product and learn a lot more, even while I am shopping.

    I even got professional electrical advice (for a small wiring project) for a lot less and a lot quicker than hiring a contractor. So, you can easily connect with so many people and so much information that you couldn’t just a few years ago.

  • Duane Draughon @ Paverstone Design Group 02/15/12

    I would have to say the 3d design software alone has helped our business grow back to the size it was before the recession. Our clients now have something to look at and almost touch because they can really see what their back yard is going to look like when completed. Most of the competition is still sketching by hand so this makes a difference in the professionalism and growth of our company.

    Second I would say the iPad. There are so many apps available to make our life and jobs easier. I don’t remember using sketch paper any more because their is an app for that. We also don’t use as much paper any more because we can present the design and layout on the iPad too. During meetings and interviews the note pad is right in front so we can take lots of notes. With apps like drop box you can also have every file you need from your office at your finger tips.

  • Toby Barnett @ Barnett Associates 02/15/12

    Emerging technologies have changed the way businesses have conducted themselves for thousands of years, yet in the digital age the change is much more rapid. As a real estate broker, and late Gen X-er, technology runs through my veins though one technology is undisputedly handy.

    The camera has to be the technology in which I leverage and lean on the most. Though cameras aren’t breakthrough technology the high definition wide angle camera is.

    I use a GoPro sports camera to create video tours of listings, personal property tours for out of state/country clients, and area tours – also capturing ski crashes. The GoPro has auto focus and auto light making it a truly point and shoot video camera so it saves time while producing high quality results. The videos are then uploaded to YouTube and shared with out of state clients as well as through social media outlets for additional advertising exposure and lead generation.

    Recently as last month, I sold a home to a Navy Chief based on a video tour. The video tour allowed him, his wife, and family members (around the World – his in-laws still live in Japan) to view the tour at their leisure, pause the video and take a longer look at a room, and watch it over and over again.

    I believe in using technology, even if it’s not marketed to a specific industry as apps and tools can be, as way to differentiate from other real estate brokers and gain exposure.

    • Dawn Ohnstad 02/17/12

      Great answer! And I agree wholeheartedly. I love using wide angle HD camera as well. In fact, I think any professional who is not using this level of quality is not serving their clients’ needs!

  • Jill Banks @ Happily Better After Room Redesign & Home Staging 02/15/12

    Online tools and mobile apps have made it much easier to do just about everything related to decorating and design. They make my presentations more accurate and professional, and they save me lots of prep time.

    My favorites:

    Autodesk HomeStyler: lets me create realistic room layouts and 3D elevations

    Olioboard: I can design moodboards using practically any item I find online and it can be printed out with a shopping list

    Houzz: A great site for getting ideas and inspiration

    I just found out about MagicPlan, an iPhone app that lets you take accurate measurements for floor plans using the phone’s camera; I’m just waiting for the Android version!

  • Nancy Dalton @ Baywolf Dalton 02/15/12

    This is going to sound so basic but for me it’s all about communication and specifications. Working with my clients or sub-contractors on a daily basis I find Smart phones, my lap top and digital pictures indispensable. It really took a while for manufacturers to put together very useful web sites that I can quickly get product technical information for my use and visuals to send to my clients. As a designer if I go to a manufacturers web site that is very hard to use or even un-usable for my needs and if I’ll find another manufacturer and they’ve lost my business. For me truly, “A picture’s worth a thousand words”. I also use networking to share my designs and communicate with clients. Houzz is a great site to share ideas with clients and blogging on elocal with my peers.

  • Kraig Kalashian 02/15/12

    Social Media is truly changing the landscape for how business is done and how we find work. In the past, most of a company’s work came from previous clients or word of mouth. In today’s environment, clients can find you more easily on the internet than ever before. Sites such as Angie’s List or Service Magic will also give you unbiased reviews of contractor’s work and help you engage them. For Design professionals such as myself, sites like Houzz will allow me to post a portfolio and then watch as people add my images to their idea books for their own projects. Users also have the option to engage you or go to your web site where they can follow your Facebook activity or Twitter feeds. This kind of access is unprecedented and certainly makes it easier to connect with prospective clients. Professional sites such as Linked In also make it easier to find talent and in some cases solicit help on projects when you need something very specific. You can target inquiries to specific groups or follow companies that pertain to your work. It used to take years to develop the kind of contacts and networks that can now be done in a matter of days.

  • Linda Benninger @ Atlanta Plumbing Plus 02/15/12

    I agree with almost everything that Greg @ Ramona’s Plumbing had to say in his post. The bit I don’t agree with is his opening statement: “I am sorry to say it is none other than my iPhone.”

    I’m not sorry about the i-phone at all. All my plumbers use them to do everything that Greg describes and to communicate it all back to me in the office. Plus, I can send scheduling and dispatch notices to them along with my notes and even pictures that the customers have sent to me, so they know what to expect when they get to the home. If special parts are needed, we can collaborate on that real-time, share photos with the supply house, and get the customer’s problem fixed quickly. Anything that helps us serve our customers more efficiently is cause for celebration in my mind. No wonder Steve Jobs was so admired across the world.

  • Kerry Ann Dame @ Posh Living 02/15/12

    For all of the reasons above, the internet has been a great time-saver for designers, allowing us to handle more clients, more quickly. We don’t have as many hours of time invested in sourcing product, and it is easy to share with clients. We no longer have to meet in person for every little detail, as long as we have a strong relationship with the client. With a smartphone and ipad, I can work from almost anywhere, and with clients far away, so our clientele includes pretty much anyone. Working with an interior designer is no longer just the realm of the wealthy; good design can be had by all!

  • Lindsey @ Unique Home Solutions 02/15/12

    I believe social media has made connecting with prospective customers much easier because we have the ability to connect with them with a softer approach. Social media allows us to share what is going on with our company, our customers and our products. If people have questions or concerns they feel free and open to ask. They don’t feel as though we are going to push them into a consultation with us, and that is not our end goal. Our goal is to build a relationship with the public, build our reputation has a trusted home remodeler and let them come to us when they are ready to speak about their projects.

    Regarding technology, I agree with some of the other responses that IPads or IPhones have made monitoring our social media accounts much simpler.

  • Tracy Metro @ Home Made Simple, The OWN Network 02/15/12

    As a designer, I firmly believe there is one stand-out tool and it just so happens that I am ADDICTED to it. Gone are the nights of Facebooking and Tweeting myself to sleep. Now, I pin til my finger go numb!!! Oh, what is pinning you ask? Well, there is a site called http://www.Pinterest.com which essentially is an online vision/bulletin board that you share with friends.

    For my entire life, I’ve been doggy-earring and tearing sheets from magazine and taking pictures of things I don’t want to forget. But now, all I have to do is pin “my pretties” and I will always have them to refer back to. Great part is, I have them categorized into different boards and my friends can see what I like! I can also see what they like and re-pin from their collections. It’s incredibly visually inspiring and stimulating.

    So, as a designer this is an invaluable tool when designing a space because not only can I reference my own ideas, but I’m able to view my client’s boards to see what they really and truly like. See, people often SAY they like one thing when in reality they are attracted to something else. By viewing their boards on Pinterest, I’m able to bring their vision board to life… which is the whole point of design!

    Go forth and pin. Oh, and since Pinterst is an invitation only site, Facebook me or Tweet me @TracyMetro and I’ll “let you in the secret club!”

  • Jason Todd @ GreenHomes America 02/16/12

    At GreenHomes America we love new gadgets and on a daily basis we use high tech calibrated fans, heating and cooling testing equipment, specialty leak detectors and Infrared cameras. This equipment isn’t new to us, but over the years it has improved.

    Infrared Cameras help us identify missed insulation or building issues by showing us heat patterns. One of the latest cameras allows us to transmit images to a tablet or computer. Good stuff when the advisor is in the attic and the customer is (justifiably so) not interested in following!

    Mobile devices, our phones and tablets, have become a lifeline as they help us transmit information about the home, keep our appointments, and communicate with the homeowner as well as the office. I think that is the case for many of us across the industry.

    Our advisors in the field may use the latest technology, but mostly they constantly need to adapt to what they see and apply what they know. There is nothing like good old fashioned learnin’ as the best “emerging technology,” which is why we constantly train and educate our people. As William Butler Yeats said “Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.” We like our folks to be fired up about making our customers homes the best they can be.

  • Jennifer Dusina @ freedomRail 02/17/12

    I agree, sounds like the general consensus is that we love iphones and all of the new innovative aps that go along with them!

    However, I’d like to share another great tool that is increasing in popularity for homeowners and professionals and is a real time saver – virtual room programs. They are available online and completely free, allowing homeowners and professionals to plan home improvement projects virtually. They’re simple to use and do not require any experience. Whether you’re planning for flooring, paint, room additions or closets, there’s a virtual program for just about any remodeling, new home or design project. Here’s a link that I recently found listing the top ten virtual room programs and tools in case you’re interested in learning more: http://freshome.com/2010/08/18/10-best-free-online-virtual-room-programs-and-tools/.

  • Neal Walsh @ Aeroseal 02/17/12

    New gadgets and technologies not only have the potential to make life easier for homeowners and contractors, but in some cases, they literally change the way we solve problems.

    According to the U.S. Department of Energy, 30 to 40 percent of the energy we use to heat and cool our homes is typically lost through leaks in the duct system. That’s a lot of wasted energy and an unnecessary boost to the average utility bill. Certainly, if our gas tanks lost that much fuel every time we filled up our cars, we would do something about it – right? So why has little attention been given to this critical concern with home energy waste?

    According to many experts, the problem has been ignored because, until recently, there simply was no adequate solution. For years, HVAC pros, contractors and home engineers did the best they could to seal duct leaks. That meant using mastic plaster or metal tape around the seams and holes that were easily accessible. But what about the 90% of the duct work that is hidden behind walls or under insulation?

    This was the question that scientists at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratories were asked to solve. After pondering the problem and experimenting with various methods of attack, they came up with a unique solution. If we can’t access the leaks from the outside of the ductwork, they reasoned, than why not do it from the inside? And that is how Aeroseal technology was developed.

    Applied as an aerosol mist that is pumped through the inside of a home’s ductwork, the breakthrough sealant finds and seals the leaks from the inside out. No taping, no mastic and no having to tear down walls to get to the problem. In fact, this aerosol approach to duct sealing can be done in less than a day with a 95% effective rate. Studies show that it will last the life of the home.

    Aeroseal technology offers such a huge improvement over passed methods of duct sealing that the U.S. Department of Energy recently proclaimed it to be one of the most significant home energy conservation technologies to come out since the department was first established about 25 years ago. Now that is game changing technology!

  • Jason Crook @ PHAG interiors 02/17/12

    Our favorite gadget isn’t new, it’s the internet, but wow is it rapidly advancing with amazing applications specific to our industry!

    Of course, the design industry has been impacted tremendously by computer-assisted design in the last decade, it’s hard to believe we actually did the same type of work we do today without all the tech tools we now have at our disposal. However, we’ve begun passing some of that technology along to our clients in the form of point-and-click space planning tools. Our clients now have the ability to log on our website and work on their space with a consumer-friendly version of the type of software we use. If you haven’t seen this you can experience it here: http://phag.icovia.com/icovia.aspx. This helps us expedite the planning process by seeing the plan that exists in the mind of our clients before we begin to help shape and improve upon their vision. Tools like this also enable us to collaborate with clients- sometimes in a different city or location- a huge advancement with great potential for growing our business in ways we would never have imagined just a few years ago.

    In the same genre of tools, some of the more recent web platforms on the scene are also helping us communicate and share better with our design clients. One of the biggest is http://www.pinterest.com where you can build story and inspiration boards and collaborate with clients in a virtual pin-up board environment. The other is http://www.houzz.com where we can share samples of our work, answer questions, and interact with a broad range of potential clients, again from a much wider geographical range than just our immediate market.

    Not only do these web-based tools improve our ability to do our job, but they ultimately change the model of our business, making our services accessible to a much broader audience!

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