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30 Dic 2016 

Motorized Roller Shades for Windows

If you are looking for affordable home improvement ideas, then installing roller shades can be the ultimate option. In fact, roller shades can be the best way to complement window treatments. They enhance the interior design of a room while being energy efficient and maintaining privacy at the same time. During harsh summer months, you can shield your room from the sun by rolling down the shades as per your requirements.

With these shades, you can prevent the glare while watching television during the daytime. Window shades are also useful for increasing the durability of the furniture and other room accessories by preventing the harsh rays of the sun from entering. Standard roller shades are adjusted manually by using a spring system and a tug at the bottom. Motorized shades are operated by using low voltage electricity or batteries.

Motorized shades can be opened or closed by pressing switches. This feature is beneficial for hard to reach windows. They are also ideal for providing child safety. They can be categorized into different types namely solar, decorative, and blackout (or light filtering). Solar roller home improvement ideas for small houses shades protect your eyes when you're looking out of the window, while decorative shades complement the room decor. Blackout shades are installed to provide complete blackout coverage.

Similar to the conventional types, motorized roller shades are available in various materials such as fabric, vinyl, and laminate. They are practically applicable for all types of rooms. The thickness of home renovation tips the material also differs accordingly; for example privacy or decorative shades are thin, while the insulating types are made from thicker materials.

You can select from a wide variety of colors, designs, and patterns as per your choice. They can be installed during the construction of a new home or retrofitted in existing windows. If you are planning to retrofit these shades, measure and note down the correct dimensions of the windows you want them installed onto.

While purchasing motorized roller shades, always consider the width and drop length so that they fit accurately on your windows. Some additional features that you should check for are voltage, operation mode (battery or electricity), and warranty period. These shades are available in low voltage 12 VDC and 24 VDC. Many home renovation ideas on a budget of the models come with wireless remotes for easy operation. You can program the shades individually or in groups with the help of a single remote.

Motorized shade kits come with the complete installation manual. By following the guidelines, you can easily install the units on your own without the help of a professional. Some of the major advantages of these shades include easy maintenance, high durability, and low-cost. They have only a few components which are configured systematically. Hence, in case of any malfunctions, they can be repaired easily by following the manufacturer's guidelines.
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30 Dic 2016 

2016 Kitchen Remodel Cost Estimator

Table of Contents

Where Will Your Kitchen Budget Go?

Small Kitchen Remodel

Mid-Range Kitchen Remodel

High-End Kitchen Remodel

Kitchen Remodel Cost Factors

Common Kitchen ProjectsCountertops





Gas lines


Final Questions to Ask Before Kitchen Remodel

Kitchen Inspiration

Remodeling a kitchen is one of the most effective ways to raise the overall value of a home before selling, and it can be a wonderful way to give any home a face-lift. The cost of remodeling a kitchen can vary widely depending on the size and scope of your project, with the national average coming in around $17,000, with most homeowners spending between $12,000 and $21,000. This guide can help estimate your costs and give you a starting point for various upgrades and services.

Once you've gathered all that information, ImproveNet can connect you with up to four kitchen remodeling contractors in your area. Remember, it's always free to connect!

Where Will Your Kitchen Budget Go?

Before you budget, you must decide what you want to remodel. Some homeowners don't have the budget or time to completely remodel the entire kitchen. As such, you have to pick and choose your additions. Remember, the smallest details can sometimes make the biggest difference. Refacing your kitchen cabinets or replacing your kitchen hardware can oftentimes have as big an effect as large kitchen renovation projects.

Nonetheless, if you you've reviewed our average kitchen remodeling costs above, you'll want to know where every dollar is going. While every kitchen renovation project is different, common trends have emerged over the years. According to the National Kitchen & Bath Association, kitchen remodeling costs break down as follows:

Cabinetry & Hardware: 29%

Installation: 17%

Appliances & Ventilation: 14%

Countertops: 10%

Flooring: 7%

Walls & Ceilings: 5%

Lighting: 5%

Design Fees: 4%

Doors & Windows: 4%

Faucets & Plumbing: 4%

Other: 1%

Remember that the above numbers are averages. Just because most homeowners spend nearly 30% of their budget on cabinetry and easy do-it-yourself home improvements hardware, that doesn't mean you have to as well. If you think your floors are in really bad shape, spend more there. Even if you're completely renovating your kitchen, you must spend and distribute your budget wisely. To ensure you're putting your money where it needs to be, continue reading below.

Small Kitchen Remodel

Small Kitchen Remodel

Budget: $1,000 - $12,000

While many of the prices above may seem intimidating, know that all include professional installation or repair. If you're working with a small kitchen, expect to pay between $5,000 and $12,000 on your kitchen renovation. Nonetheless, whether you're working with a small or big kitchen, the best way to cut costs is to DIY. ImproveNet has a wide array of DIY articles and videos, no matter how much or little DIY experience you may have.

If you have to hire a pro and still want to limit your kitchen remodeling costs, focus on smaller ticket items like cabinet repairs, hardware changes, the faucet or smaller appliances. See their costs below:

Cabinet Repairs: Even durable cabinets become damaged over time. Whether it's the kids horsing around or an adult slamming one too hard, cabinets need repairs every so often. Luckily, the average cost of cabinet repair is only $364.

Hardware Updates: Hardware is often referred to as the jewelry of the cabinetry. Luckily, certain styles and types of hardware are cheap, but can still transform the look and feel of any kitchen. Just know that a typical kitchen can have anywhere between 20-40 knobs and pulls. Remember, the cheaper items will not last as long as the more expensive purchases.

Faucet Installation: Believe it or not, installing a kitchen sink is not expensive, with the average coming in at $250. If you have recently updated your kitchen and didn't touch the faucet, chances are, your old sink does not mesh well with the new design. Given its low cost, there's no reason to put it off any longer.

Replace Appliances: There are millions of kitchen appliances out there, which means there is the right fridge, stove or dishwasher for every kitchen and its remodeling budget. The average cost of having an appliance installed in the kitchen is $471.

Mid-Range Kitchen Remodel

Budget: $12,000 - $20,000

Those homeowners willing to spend between $12,000 and $20,000 can afford a few high-end finishes as well as not worry about completing the project yourself. While finding your own materials or helping out your pro will certainly decrease your total cost, a mid-range kitchen remodel can be completed without your assistance.

If you have the money, start off by replacing old or inexpensive counter materials, such as laminate. Granite and corian are popular choices, but Quartz, while pricey, has been dominating the new the kitchen counter industry for the last few years and we don't see that trend going away anytime soon.

Additionally, you also have the budget to repaint the kitchen if you wish. If you want your kitchen to look bigger, go with white or other bright colors. An all-white kitchen can create an illusion of roominess, as it offers a seamless transition from walls to floors. 

Finally, in addition to all projects discussed below, you should consider installing energy-efficient lighting in the ceiling and under the cabinet. Their upfront costs may be more, but they'll certainly last and help the environment.

High-End Kitchen Remodel

Budget: $20,000+

Once you get beyond $20,000, your wish list is almost endless (without going crazy). After replacing all counters and refacing or installing new cabinets, focus on the flooring, backsplash and island. If you don't have a kitchen island, go out and find a kitchen pro to add one right away. They are becoming a staple in kitchens across the country. They not only add a new and improved design feature, but also improves your storage and expands your seating.

Other high-end kitchen updates may include:

Installing custom cabinets

Installing high-end kitchen appliances

Adding recessed lighting and rewiring as necessary

Opting for additional overhead lighting

Adding tech features such as automatic lights or Bluetooth speakers

Bear in mind, the above prices and budgets are based on averages across the country. To get an exact estimate, consult a kitchen remodeling pro in your area.

Kitchen Remodel Cost Factors

Besides the budget, cost of materials and price to hire a pro, there are other factors that greatly affect your total kitchen renovation cost. Return on investment (ROI) is key with not only kitchen remodels, but any remodel throughout the house. Furthermore, your general taste, how long you plan on living in the home and general kitchen remodeling trends can all increase or decrease your total kitchen renovation cost.


The No. 1 component of any kitchen remodel is your budget. If you don't have home renovation ideas on a budget the money, you can't spend it. It's imperative that all homeowners know exactly how much you can and can't spend on a kitchen remodel. Those who don't set a budget almost always go over and spend way more than they originally intended.

Like any renovation project, always have a contingency budget. Surprises can and will happen when you open up the walls, floors or other components you can't see before the remodel begins.

Cost of Materials

Even if you DIY the entire kitchen, you still have to pay for the raw materials. Their overall costs will depend on your budget and style. As previously discussed, there is a wide range of prices for all counters, cabinets, flooring types and so on. For example, laminate counters start at $25/sf, while engineered quartz counters start at $38/sf.

Price to Hire A Pro

Most kitchen renovations are not simple and as such, many homeowners opt to hire a pro. Well, no one works for free and that expert labor will add to your total costs. For mid-range or high-end kitchen remodels, expect 25% of your total budget to go towards labor.


ROI should always be in the back of your mind throughout your renovation. Unless you plan to live in your house for the rest of your life or longer than 20 years, your potential ROI will affect your total renovation cost.

Sadly, most home remodeling projects do not return 100% of your investment. In fact, according to Remodeling's 2016 Cost Vs. Value report, only one project will return a positive investment (attic insulation). Nonetheless, that doesn't mean you should skip all remodeling projects. After all, if you plan to live in your house for another 10 years, you will enjoy those long overdue upgrades. You'll get a higher sale price down the line and a higher quality of life living with a remodeled kitchen.


Speaking of sale price, your expected date of sale has an affect on your total cost. Like I said above, if you plan on living in the home for a long time, don't be afraid to splurge. After all, this is your kitchen, one of the most trafficked rooms in any house. However, if you plan on selling your house in the near future, say less than three years after the remodel, don't go crazy with your kitchen renovation.

According to HomeAdvsior, you should spend between 5% and 15% of your home's total value on your kitchen remodel if you plan to sell your home in the near future. This is the optimum range to spend and expect to recoup during a home's resale.

Personal Tastes

Additionally, personal taste will increase or decrease the total cost of your kitchen remodel.  Some of us have expensive taste while others are content with inexpensive solutions such as laminate counters or plain white walls. Furthermore, as time moves on, more and more homeowners are opting for modern touches, which of course come with a higher price tag. Traditional kitchens are still very popular, but they also tend to be less expensive than modern designs. Needless to say, whether it's the counters, appliances, dishwasher or cabinets, your personal taste will alter your kitchen renovation cost.

Kitchen Remodeling Trends

Finally, kitchen trends can make or break your kitchen remodeling budget. Going back to simple economics, as demand goes up, so does the price. Therefore, when certain materials are trending, such as quartz counters, those prices go up. After all, if you can expect more in return the day you sell, you should expect a higher upfront cost.

Therefore, before you start your kitchen redo, research what's trending. According to Kitchen Remodeling Trends for 2016, the following materials and designs are hot:

Neutral Kitchen Colors

Thin, Quarts Countertops

Contemporary Cabinet Designs

Hardwood Flooring

Gray Tones

Sleek Appliances

Decorating with Glass or Metal

Common Kitchen Projects

Common Kitchen Projects


If the kitchen is the heart of the home, then the countertops might be called the heart of the kitchen. Therefore, as you can tell above, it's one of the most popular kitchen remodeling projects. The average cost of having new countertops installed is $3,401, but it's important to realize how much this can vary from project to project. The price will depend on the size of your kitchen, the simplicity of the layout and the materials used.

Tile and laminate countertops are the cheapest option, but beware, laminate is the easiest material to chip and is not very durable. As you move up the chain, price and longevity increase. Below are the average kitchen countertop prices for the most popular counters.


Worn down cabinets stand out like a sore thumb. Whether it's scratched paint, lose handles or chipped corners, old cabinets should be one of the first considerations of your kitchen remodel.

Fortunately, unlike your counters, there are plenty of remodeling tactics to choose from. For kitchen cabinets, you can install new, replace, refinish or repair your cabinets. The prices vary as on the amount of work and number of cabinets being altered.

Furthermore, there are different cabinet prices depending on the style and location.


The third wheel of the kitchen tricycle is the flooring. After the counters, cabinets and flooring, the rest of the kitchen remodel gets easy. Nevertheless, flooring will not come fast or cheap.

Traditionally, tile was the No. 1 option for all kitchens. It didn't matter if you wanted a traditional or contemporary design, tile was the source. However, as we mentioned above, hardwood flooring has certainly come around over the years. While it can be expensive, hardwood offers a modern, yet rustic touch to the heart of the home.

Fortunately, even if you don't like wood, you have plenty of options to choose from when it comes to kitchen flooring. Most tiles start at $5/sf, while hardwood begins at $6/sf. The prices go up from there, all the way to $50/sf for stone. More prices below:


With the three big players out of the way, we can focus on the smaller items that can still make or break a kitchen remodeling budget. When you talk about appliances, you have to first consider the stove, oven, fridge and dishwasher. All elements must blend with your kitchen design. Once again, if you're going to live in your house for at least a few years after the remodel, don't update two appliances and the leave one outdated appliance sitting in the corner. It will undoubtedly stick out.

As always, there is a wide range of prices for all kitchen appliances. In the end, the price will largely depend on installation, material chosen and the final design. According to HomeAdvisor:

Budget outlet appliances go as high as $2,000.

EnergyStar appliances go as high as $3,500.

High-end store bought appliances go as high as $5,000.

Custom built-in appliances go as high as $10,000.

Then again, you could always research based on the exact appliance, such as the dishwasher or stove.


The layout of kitchens has drastically changed over the years. While the kitchen triangle is still important, many creative designers and homeowners have completely transformed kitchen layouts. As such, with any major kitchen remodel, you must consider plumbing costs. If you want to move your sink or dishwasher to the other side of the room, you may have to install new pipes. Additionally, for new sinks, you may have to add a new drain. While the costs are not large, they must be considered when researching kitchen remodeling costs.

Gas Lines

Much like your plumbing, gas lines may be moved during a major remodeling project. While you should certainly try to avoid, as it can add thousands to the overall project, just know that is can be done with an experience electrician.


Just like plumbing, new electrical issues may come to light as soon as you take down a wall or two. Since you are already remodeling the kitchen, going into walls and moving large appliances around, you might as well tackle those longstanding electrical problems you've been putting off.

Additionally, you may have to move an outlet or two. As such, outlet installation must be considered. Below are some common electrical costs that may come up during your kitchen renovation:

Final Questions to Ask Before Kitchen Remodel

Final Questions to Ask Before Kitchen Remodel

After you determine your budget, there are still plenty of questions you must answer before starting any kitchen renovation project. The below questions will not only clear your mind and simplify the entire process, but save you both time and money in the long run.

1. What Do I Like About Other Kitchens or My Current Kitchen?

Inspiration can come from anywhere. It can hit you in the car, while watching HGTV, hanging out at friend's place or just browsing Pinterest. No matter where you get it from, make sure you're noting what you like and dislike.

Before any remodel, everyone has a rough idea of what they want the final product to be. Sadly, we can't always see an exact replica of what we have on our mind. Therefore, when you see a kitchen design, appliance or layout you like, take a picture, save a pin or do whatever you can to not lose that image. If you're meeting with a kitchen designer, show them everything you saved. It will undoubtedly make the process much easier.

2. How Will I Use My Future Kitchen?

Homeowners use kitchens in different ways. For those of you who eat out a lot, don't have children or prefer to go to other housewarming parties may not have use for an open layout or large kitchen island. In essence, if you don't use the kitchen that often, it may make more sense to invest your money elsewhere in the home (that is, unless you're selling soon).

On the other side of the spectrum, those homeowners who like to cook, host dinner parties or have small children would greatly benefit from an open kitchen layout with a large island.

Open concepts not only make the room feel bigger, but also give you a clear sight into the living room, where your little ones are most likely running around. Open floor plans give any mom or dad that extra sense of safety knowing they can always have an eye on the kids.

Needless to say, how you use your kitchen largely affects your kitchen remodeling cost.

3. How Long Can We Function Without A Kitchen?

How you use your kitchen also affects how long you can last without a working kitchen. Believe it or not, kitchen remodels can get very dirty, chaotic and loud. As you can imagine, such an area does not lend itself to a family that cooks and eats every meal at home.

Therefore, if you're planning a large kitchen remodeling project, prepare to eat out or even move out. It may sound scary and expensive to move out of your home, but believe it or not, you could end up saving money and reducing the overall completion time. You're giving the contractor more freedom and space to complete the project faster. It eliminates a lot of cleaning they would have to do if you were occupying the home.

ImproveNet has heard from homeowners who originally tried to live through the kitchen remodel, but ended up moving out in the middle. If you use your kitchen a lot, it's not worth living through a dirty and messy kitchen renovation.

4. When Do I Plan to Sell?

This question was already discussed above, but it deserves repeating. All homeowners must keep their five-year plan in mind as you plan your kitchen remodel. If you plan on living in the home for more than five years, remodel and decorate however you wish. If you plan on selling soon, keep trends and neutral designs in mind. While you may love an orange accent wall, chances are, potential buyers will not.

Kitchen Inspiration

As noted above, one can gather kitchen inspiration from a myriad of places. Whether it's Pinterest, friends' homes, HGTV or other home remodeling websites, you should never have to settle when it comes to kitchen inspiration.

Additionally, we are constantly updating the ImproveNet blog with kitchen design tricks, costs, designs and trends. Check out all our kitchen stories here.

Last updated on Aug 4, 2016
23 Dic 2016 

Make the most of the Fall with Seasonal Decorating, Home Improvement Ideas and Real Estate Advice from Scripps Networks’ Home Websites

KNOXVILLE, Tenn.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Since the fall season is catch-up look these up time for all things inside, outside

and around your home, Scripps Networks' home sites have partnered to

create an ultimate destination for tips and projects for the season,

including weekend projects, buying and selling insider advice,

budget-friendly decorating ideas, autumn gardening -- even ways to create

your own entertainment room to enjoy the football season!

Hundreds of handy activities, including articles and videos, are housed

on the four home-related websites for Scripps Networks --,,


Visit these sites for this fall's guide for the perfect autumn abode.

Here's a highlight of what the sites have to offer:'s Weekend Projects

Browse dozens of photos and videos of fun and fabulous fall step-by-step

projects for $100 or less, from installing headboards and faux crown

molding to ceiling medallions and radiator covers.

Outdoor Retreats shares groundbreaking

ideas and look at more info how-to steps for creating backyard escapes and front yard

retreats for you to enjoy this fall, including all the latest in outdoor

lighting, backyard entertaining and deck building.

Budget-Savvy Bathrooms

This fall, find great buys for your bathroom on a small budget. Visit's Smart

Chic Bathrooms feature for how-to's, bathroom makeover photos,

budget-friendly items and a cool quiz to test your bargain buying skills.

Winterize your home

Stop the leaks and lower your energy bill with sealing and insulation

techniques from HGTVPro.

Also, get great tips for preparing your lawn for the coming winter and

inspecting your fireplace from

Buying or selling?

By the holiday season, real estate deals disappear -- as do interested

buyers. Make your move now, with's best buying

and selling tips for fall.

Paint & Color Guides

Learn how to paint like a pro, including the hottest color combos for

your bathroom, bedroom and kitchen, as well as's tips

and techniques on how to add character to your walls.

Fall Gardening

For lots of great tips on how to maintain your fleur for the fall, check

out's Fall

Gardening Guide. Watch short videos on what to plant, how to plant

it and steps for proper care of your garden.

About Scripps Networks Digital

Scripps Networks Digital is a diversified multi-platform programmer that

delights millions daily with award-winning content in the home, food and

living categories. SN Digital's websites --,,,,,,,; and the newest -- are powered by engaging

content, interactive tools and social spaces that take fans of Scripps

Networks cable brands further into the story and offer online users

information and inspiration to fuel their passions. SN Digital also

distributes content to mobile and online partners, providing lifestyle

solutions virtually anywhere, anytime.
22 Dic 2016 

How to stay on top of a renovation project

If you're planning on tackling a major renovation project in the near future, here are some tips to make sure you're getting what you want.

Planning Ahead

Excited to get their new kitchen or bathroom, many homeowners rush in without proper planning. Failing to take care of the nitty-gritty details up front can turn your project into a renovation disaster, taking much more time and costing much more money than you expected. 

With a home renovation ideas on a budget tool like Autodesk's Homestyler you can build a 3D model of your home and test out various renovation ideas, giving you a good idea of what the project will look like before you start tearing down walls. By visualizing your project, you'll be able to make a list of everything you want to change, which will help keep you on budget and on schedule down house renovation costs the road.

By visualizing your project, you'll be able to make a list of everything you want to change.

To help with the planning process, you might also consider hiring an architect. An architect can help you work through your ideas and put together a plan that fits your budget, and can also make sure the contractor executes the plan properly.  

Staying on Budget

Sometimes cost increases are out of your control. If a contractor finds that the wiring in the kitchen isn't up to code and needs to be replaced, that's just an extra cost that you'll have to accept. But often, cost increases are the result of homeowners changing their minds mid-project.

Over the course of the project, you'll have to make dozens of decisions -- from small items like picking out door knobs, to bigger costs like flooring material. Your builder might offer you slightly more expensive upgrades, which, while tempting, can quickly start to add up. Get a price list for materials in advance, figure out what you can afford and stick to it. To help you stay on top of things, use an app like HomeZada, which allows you to log project costs and work out a budget for a project in advance.  

Staying on Schedule

There are some things you can do to make sure the project gets done quickly. First, make sure the materials you want are actually available. You may have your heart set on a particular bathroom tile, but if there's a six-week backorder, it's only going to cause massive delays and possibly added costs. So talk with your builder in advance to make sure all the materials will be there from day one.

Next, you'll want to figure out your permit situation well in advance. Rather than getting caught up during construction in red tape that can drag on for weeks, have all the necessary paperwork filled out before you start the project. Ask your contractor or architect what sort of permits they expect to need on the project and what you need to do to get them sorted out.

Finally, make sure the project manager or architect is going to be onsite every day. Many will show up at the beginning of a project, delegate the work and then not show up until the final walkthrough. This could be a recipe for disaster, so make sure you know who is calling the shots onsite and insist that they be there every day or, at least, on a very regular schedule. If you're living elsewhere during the remodeling job, you'll also want to make sure to visit very frequently, if not every day. That way, when issues arise, they can get sorted out quickly.

Improving Communication

Once a project is in full swing, maintaining good communication between a homeowner and the builder is key. Fortunately, there are some great online tools for renovation projects that can keep you and your contractor or architect on the same page. PlanGrid and OnSite PlanRoom are project management systems for mobile devices that allow you to view and modify blueprints, add comments or request changes. When a project leader makes a change to the plans or someone home renovation contractors runs into a problem, you get an update, keeping you on top of the project from wherever you are.
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21 Dic 2016 

Bracing For Fire | The Huffington Post


A photo from space of the Las Conchas fire in the Jemez mountains near Los Alamos, N.M. just after its start at 1:30 p.m. on June 26, 2011. On the first day, driven by strong and unpredictable winds, the fire burned 43,000 acres--a rate of about an acre per second. By the time the fire was controlled, it had burned more than 150,000 acres. (Photo courtesy of NASA.)

How Computer Modeling Might Help Us Better Understand--and Better Manage--Wildfires

This summer, throughout the West, higher temperatures and decreased precipitation brought on by climate change have ramped up the frequency of wildfires -- big, catastrophic fires -- while a century of fire suppression feeds the flames with a thick tangle of fuel in our overgrown forests.

We can't stop all fires -- and we shouldn't. Healthy ecosystems depend on them. But understanding what drives big fires and predicting their behavior helps the fire community prepare for the next blaze through appropriate land management, emergency plans and firefighting strategies. Beyond those benefits, a deeper understanding of wildfires prompts important insights into tactics for using prescribed fire as well as insight into larger regional environmental issues, including how fires change river flows and the availability of water for drinking, agriculture and energy production.

For scientists studying wildfire, the challenge is predicting the seemingly unpredictable. A wide range of conditions -- temperature, humidity, wind speed, wind direction, larger weather patterns, available fuel, fuel conditions and terrain --influence the behavior of fire. Figuring out details such as the movement of hot gasses coming off a raging forest fire or the combination of convective and radiative heat transfer that ignite unburned fuels, for example, seems impossible at first. There's so much to consider, from how the fire front interacts with the atmosphere that drives it forward to the feedbacks of the fuel's structure on the fire and winds to the impacts of the topography and regional meteorology.

Fortunately, Los Alamos National Laboratory is well suited to address this kind of multidisciplinary, ultimately physics-based problem -- and the lab has a stake in wildfire prediction and management. As the Cerro Grande and Las Conchas fires demonstrated, the laboratory and neighboring communities are equally vulnerable to runaway conflagrations on our doorstep. Furthermore, Los Alamos' mission includes addressing energy security and national security, both of which can be affected by wildfires.

Modeling wildfires exploits the lab's unique capabilities in physics, computational modeling and high-performance computing. For decades the lab has built computer models of complex systems that move and change through time. That work includes hot gasses -- fire -- and the atmosphere. The laboratory's supercomputers make it possible.

When a team of atmospheric scientists, computational physicists and mathematicians in the laboratory's Earth and Environmental Sciences division, collaborating with the U.S. Forest Service Rocky Mountain Research Station and Southern Research Station, set out to simulate the interacting processes that make up a wildfire as a basis for predicting its behavior, they leveraged a wealth of expertise and experience that had been developed partially through the laboratory's weapons program.

A research effort initiated by Laboratory Fellow Francis Harlow, a pioneer in computational fluid dynamics, and Andrew White, a visionary figure in the national high-performance computing community, led to the development of FIRETEC. It was the first wildfire model to simulate the interaction among many of the physical processes that determine the continuously shifting dance between fire and its surroundings. FIRETEC, which is now developed in collaboration with U.S. Forest Service, simulates three-dimensional interactions among fire, fuel and the environment at landscape scales. By coupling FIRETEC with an atmospheric-dynamics model called HIGRAD and using real-world data, the team can represent the interaction between fire and atmosphere and the way fire adjusts to terrain, vegetation, fuel and the dynamics of fire itself.

FIRETEC presents a new way of studying fire and learning how to better manage and cope with it. The model provides additional scientific input for decisions by policymakers working in land management, water resources and energy. The team hopes it will eventually assist fire and fuel management operations. Currently the team is partnering with the Rocky fuel management system software Mountain Research Station to study the combined influence of wind and slope on heat exposure in firefighter safety zones, with the Air Force Wildland Fire Center to study the efficiency of various prescribed fire tactics and with INRA of France and the Canadian Forest Service to study the effects of fuel breaks for fire management.

But there's more research to be done to further improve wildfire modeling for practical use in the field during a fire. FIRETEC's complexity and the massive amounts of data involved require enormous high-performance computers such as those available at Los Alamos to perform simulations. The laboratory-led team is now working with the Forest Service to apply what it learns from FIRETEC to assist in developing and refining less detailed but faster-running tools that incident fire commanders could run on their laptops to predict fire behavior over the next few hours. This is a short enough time frame to deploy firefighters in anticipation of the fire's next move or help keep firefighters out of harm's way. This faster-running tool could also benefit decision-support tools such as Simtable, which is currently used in the laboratory's Emergency Operations Center.

On another front, as part of a larger Los Alamos stand alone fuel management system study on the impact of climate-driven changes on watersheds, laboratory researchers are working toward using FIRETEC to potentially spin off simplified models. One model can explore, for example, how the aftermath of a catastrophic fire in the Colorado River system might alter flows in the San Juan River. That's important locally because the San Juan supplies drinking water to Santa Fe and cools the Four Corners Generating Station, a major regional energy source. How will climate-driven changes to vegetation alter the pattern of fires and the severity of the effects in that watershed? What can be done to minimize those impacts? Research underway now should answer these questions.

Providing those answers is an appropriate endeavor for Los Alamos for several reasons. While the Los Alamos community has had more than its fair share of encounters with wildfire, the research is more than personal: it fits the laboratory's mission to enhance energy security and national security. Additionally, the required expertise in the combination of multi-phase fluid dynamics, heat transfer, combustion, computational modeling and computer science are optimally aligned with many of the laboratory's other mission areas. "Science serving society" is a catchy phrase, but in the case of wildfire modeling at Los Alamos, it couldn't be more apt.

Rod Linn is a senior scientist in the Computational Earth Science group at Los Alamos National Laboratory, where he studies and models a wide range of atmospheric phenomenon using computational physics. Linn has led much of the development and application of the FIRETEC computer program for predicting wildfire behavior, but the breadth of work using this tool is accomplished through a broad set of Los Alamos investigators as well as domestic and international collaborators.

More about how Los Alamos National Laboratory prepares for wildfires:

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