The Daily Beast shares some unfortunate news: your monthly electric bill is about to go up. Faced with mandatory infrastructure upgrades to bring America's "Third World power grid" up to speed, utility companies are passing off the costs of these major undertakings to customers. Explains the Daily Beast: "The pending rate hikes are bad news for poor and elderly Americans on tight budgets, as Congress and the White House begin making cuts to programs that help people cope with their utility bills. One program in particular, the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, was slashed during the budget negotiations earlier this year, and is slated for even deeper reductions this fall."


The Los Angeles reveals that most Americans aren't taking advantage of — or are totally unaware of  — the bevy of available tax rebates and other incentives for energy-efficient home upgrades. According to a survey conducted for National Energy Awareness Month, although half of respondents said they embarked on energy- and money-saving home improvement projects, 71 percent didn't bother to look into any financial incentives. Sixty-one percent of respondents didn't even know they existed. 


Re-Nest does what it does best: makes a list (this one on how to leak-proof your home for the rainy fall season). 


Arch Daily plots to spend next summer in a lovely 3,379-square-foot beach "shack" on Fire Island. The cedar-clad, Resolution: 4 Architecture-designed abode boasts passive solar lighting and natural ventilation, eco-friendly landscaping, and plenty of bike and wagon parking (cars are verboten on F.I.). Having spent a fair amount of time on New York's prettiest spit of sand myself,  I'm curious as to what community this project is in. 


The Atlantic is flabbergasted that medium density fiberboard bookshelf and lingonberry jam pusher IKEA is the second most popular fast-food eatery in Germany, beating out American chains like McDonalds, Burger King, KFC and Subway. The reason? German consumers are apparently hot on combining breakfast with home furnishing shopping. 


Houzz checks in from Barkitecture 2011, Austin's annual designer doghouse showcase/auction. This year's "Best in Show" award was handed off to Cube House, a minimalist, zen garden-topped creation from Cesar Milan (yep, that Cesar Milan) and Austin-based custom builder Spring Builders.


The New York Times talks suburban housing in a fantastic Opinionator piece from Alison Arieff. She writes: "Is there anything made in America that’s less innovative than the single-family home? While we obsess over the new in terms of what we keep in our houses — the ever-increasing speed and functionality of our Smartphones, entertainment options built into refrigerators, sophisticated devices that monitor, analyze and report on our sleep cycles, even the superior technology of the running shoes we put on before heading out the flimsy fiberboard door — we’re incredibly undemanding of the houses themselves." 


The Wall Street Journal provides a few pointers on how to maintain a "gadget-friendly, 21st-century home — without having it look like mission control."

TreeHugger shares BuildingGreen's picks for Top 10 Green Products of 2012, something that Lloyd Alter describes as "like watching Eoncote Ceramic Paint dry, not very sexy and attention grabbing."


The Los Angeles Times preps for some soggy weather with a look at rainwater harvesting techniques, tips and tidbits. Writes The Dry Garden columnist Emily Green: "With the first rain of the season comes a question: How best to capture it for the garden? There is no single answer. Each property has dramatically different opportunities and challenges. Get it right and rainy season becomes a time of unrivaled beauty and pleasure. Get it wrong and you can ruin your house, or your neighbor’s."


Matt Hickman ( @mattyhick ) writes about design, architecture and the intersection between the natural world and the built environment.

Playing catch up: I hate to break it to you ...
... but your electric bills are increasing and you're missing out on rebates for energy-saving home improvements at your newly built suburban home, which isn't