Gunning Daily News

Tips for Keeping your House Warm without Burning a Hole in Your Pocket

December 10, 2013 10:15 pm

BPT—The winter months mean celebrating the holidays, reconnecting with family and friends and planning your resolutions for the New Year. They can also mean a sharp increase to your monthly heating bill in order to stay warm and comfortable. If you're interested in controlling your energy expenses while maintaining comfort, the tips below will help you make sure more of your money is put towards presents than power.

* Close the doors to rooms that are not in use. Most of us remember to turn off the lights in a room we're not using but we rarely shut the door. And we end up wasting energy because of it. Don't waste heat on rooms that aren't in use. Instead, close those doors and allow the heat to circulate within a smaller area. Your furnace will have an easier time maintaining the temperature and you'll notice the benefit on your energy bill.

* Invest in a heat pump. Some rooms are simply too important to keep the door closed all of the time. If it's a child's play area or your office, then chances are you're looking for a way to add a little more heat. Investing in a duct-free heat pump system is the perfect solution.

* Check for cracks and gaps around windows and doors. Today's homes are more airtight than ever before but there is still the potential for cold air to enter your home via your doors and windows. Inspect each of these openings and seal or insulate any gaps you find to prevent the loss of warm air. You should also check for cracks and gaps around the door to the attic and at any locations where outside pipes or cords enter your home.

* Cover your windows. Small cracks or gaps in your windows can create drafts and cold air hits your windows and leaves them cold to the touch, transferring those frigid temperatures inside. Prevent that cold from coming into your home by sealing your windows. This simple procedure takes only minutes and will have a dramatic effect on your heating bill. And don't forget that heavy weight curtains can also help keep drafts out.

* Check your insulation. Many homes, especially older homes, are vulnerable to cold temperatures because they lack sufficient insulation. Insulation is commonly found in the attic but it also exists in any outer wall. If you are concerned your home may be poorly insulated, you can check the insulation levels yourself or you can hire a qualified home energy auditor who will check your insulation as part of his overall energy assessment.

The colder months are coming but that doesn't mean you have to feel it inside your own home. Prepare for winter with the tips included here and you'll be ready to enjoy a warm and festive winter holiday season.


Word of the Day

December 10, 2013 10:15 pm

Report of title. Document required before title insurance can be issued. It states the name of the owner, a legal description of the property, and the status of taxes, liens, and anything else that might affect the marketability of the title.


Q: What Can I Do about Unseen Problems Like Toxic Gases?

December 10, 2013 10:15 pm

A: Problems with your chimney, mechanical devices on your heating appliance, and pressure within the home can all cause combustion spillage, the unwanted flow of combustion gases into your home. Present in these gases are toxic elements such as carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen oxides.

The best way to prevent spillage is to hire a professional – preferably one who specializes in building inspection, indoor air quality, ducting, chimneys and heating equipment – to do a yearly maintenance check of all your combustion appliances. These appliances include a gas-fired furnace, boiler, or water heater, an oil-fired furnace, boiler, or water heater, and a fireplace.


Is Your Home Properly Winterized for Your Pets?

December 10, 2013 1:06 pm

With autumn quickly giving way to the cold and inclement weather of winter, I want to take a moment to make sure our four-legged friends have a good winter, too. A recent post from the Association of Pet Dog Trainers (APDT - apdt.com) had a lot of good information for homeowners about wintering pets.

According to the APDT post, puppies, senior dogs and dogs with certain disease conditions (such as thyroid conditions) are more susceptible to cold temperatures. Remember - temperature related illnesses require immediate removal to a warm, dry environment and medical attention by your veterinarian.

Hypothermia can result from extended exposure to cold and is a life-threatening condition. Watch your dog for signs of shivering, shallow breathing, weak pulse or lethargy.

Frostbite is a temperature related tissue injury and most commonly occurs on ears, tails, scrotum or feet. Signs include discolored skin (red, pale, or grayish) swelling, or blisters. Check your pet often for signs of frostbite which may be hidden beneath fur.

Special Considerations for Outdoor Dogs

The APDT says you should bring your dogs inside for the winter if at all possible. If bringing your dogs inside for the season is not possible your dogs must have warm, windproof shelter - preferably heated.

Dry, clean bedding is essential to keeping warm and straw or bedding needs replenished all winter season long.

Water & food can easily freeze. Use heated bowls to prevent freezing and make sure that the electrical cords are out of reach of your pets.

Outdoor dogs will burn more calories (up to 30%) and need extra food. Make sure that you are feeding additional rations during cold temperature.

The Humane Society of the United States also weighed in on winterizing for pets saying if pets cannot come indoors, make sure they are protected by a dry, draft-free enclosure large enough to allow them to sit and lie down, but small enough to hold in the pet’s body heat.

Raise the floor a few inches off the ground and cover it with cedar shavings or straw. Turn the enclosure away from the wind and cover the doorway with waterproof burlap or heavy plastic.


Can Mindfulness Raise Your Net Worth?

December 9, 2013 7:18 pm

Sitting down with the intention of stilling one’s mind and body is no longer the sole province of hippies and Eastern medicine aficionados, says leadership expert Dr. Stephen Josephs.

Nike, 50 Cent and the Marine Corps all embrace the benefits of mindfulness meditation, he says.

“The benefits of mindfulness meditation do not exist in a vacuum; mindfulness meditation not only lowers your blood pressure, it also offers a host of other positives, including increasing business acumen,” says Josephs, who has coached executives for more than 30 years and recently authored the new book, “Dragons at Work,” (www.DragonsAtWork.com).

“It sharpens your intuitive business sense. By relaxing your body, breathing evenly, and paying attention to the present moment, you notice things you might otherwise miss. Paying exquisite attention is the key to staying real, and daily meditation builds that capacity.”

The benefits of a calm and focused mind are ubiquitous; Josephs offers tips for business leaders.

• If you’re faced with what looks like an enticing opportunity, don’t just do something. Sit there. Breathe quietly and let the fear and greed subside. The easiest way to fool yourself in a deal, negotiation or transaction is to let your thinking stray from what’s happening and get seduced by a dream. It could be the dream your counterpart is spinning for you or simply the dream of results, good or bad. Like most people, you have probably experienced moments when you knew something – a business relationship, an investment – was going south, but you hesitated to act because you didn’t have facts to support your intuition. Sometimes, your intuition knows something that your logical mind does not.

• Pay attention to what your body is telling you; you may be expressing signals that your logical mind is slow to notice. In a psychological study titled, “The Iowa Gambling Task,” researchers gave subjects the task of making the most money possible by choosing cards from four decks. Unbeknownst to the subjects, the decks were stacked. Some were “good decks” (producing winners more of the time) and some were “bad decks,” (producing losers). After about 40 to 50 picks, most subjects caught on to which decks produced winners and losers. Their bodies knew something that their rational minds had missed. After about 10 picks they began to produce physiological symptoms of stress when their hands reached for the bad decks. If you’re not paying attention to those subtle signals, your innate wisdom is inaccessible.

• Meditation develops emotional balance and a better business mind. If you’ve never meditated, try it! Start small by simply sitting still and keeping your eyes closed for five minutes. Feel the weight of your body in its sitting position. Try to simplify your thoughts to basic things, down to the subtle sounds of the room, your breathing. Mindfulness meditation does not require extensive study in ancient traditions. Notice the difference after only five minutes; you will feel more relaxed. Later, try it for 10 minutes, and then longer. Do your due diligence in that state of mind. The equanimity that will sharpen your acumen is also the source of your happiness in life. Don’t trade it for anything.


3 New Year’s Resolutions That Will Enrich Your Retirement

December 9, 2013 7:18 pm

For many baby boomers looking to retire in the next few years, the biggest worry is not whether or not they can retire, but if they’ll outlive their savings.

It’s a valid concern: One of every four people turning 65 today can expect to live past their 90th birthday, and one in 10 will live past 95, according to the Social Security Administration.

For a married couple, there's a 58 percent chance that one of them will live to 90.

With 10,000 boomers turning 65 every day, it’s something on the minds of more than a fourth of Americans.

“I went into this business because I hated seeing people who’d followed the rules – saved money in a 401k, put their kids through college, gave to charity – get to retirement and find they didn’t have enough to sustain them for more than a few years,” says Andrew McNair, founder and CEO of SWAN Capital, and author of “Don’t be Penny Wise & Dollar Foolish.”

“It’s not enough to have a certain amount of money in your portfolio, you want to have a guaranteed check coming in in addition to your investments.”

Whether you’re years from retirement or planning for it now, McNair says these three New Year’s resolutions will be the best you ever made:

• Resolve to plan for expenses in retirement to equal or exceed your expenses today. Many people assume their expenses will decline once they retire – they forget that they’re going to have a lot more free time to do what they love, McNair says. “What are your dreams? Will you want to travel? Take up a new hobby? Meet friends for golf two or three times a week? Those likely are going to be expenses you don’t have now,” he says. Also, once you retire, things don’t magically last forever. The rug in the dining room, the fridge in the kitchen – eventually they’ll need to be replaced or repaired. Also, as you age, medical expenses either appear or increase. Sit down and think about what your ideal retirement looks like, and presume that it will be for at least 30 years. Make a list and take a guess at what those activities cost – even if your retirement is years away. How much money will you need coming in each month or year?

• Resolve to get most of your investments out of tax-deferred plans. If you’re working for a company that provides a match for 401k contributions, by all means, contribute up to the maximum match. “That’s free money – you’d be crazy not to take advantage,” McNair says. But anything beyond that should be invested in something that’s more tax efficient: Roth IRA, municipal bonds, life insurance or real estate. No one expects taxes will go down – they’ll be going up. Uncle Sam already has a lien on your IRA or 401(k); don’t let his lien, the taxes you’ll owe, continue to grow. Go ahead and pay now, and your future retired self will be glad you did.

• Resolve to have a portfolio that generates a steady or guaranteed paycheck. The ideal financial security for retirement is having a guaranteed income that increases with inflation, McNair says. “You want to plan for an income that meets or exceeds your annual income now so, if you’ll be getting $1,000 a month from Social Security at age 62 and your current income is $4,000 a month, you need to have a plan to guarantee $3,000 a month to cover that gap.” Annuities and life insurance are the only investments that provide a guaranteed income you cannot outlive, so consider them for at least part of your portfolio. “You don’t want them to make up 100 percent of your portfolio, but they should provide the foundation,” McNair says.

It’s important to start thinking now about where you want to be in retirement and what combination of investments will ensure you have the lifestyle you want for as long as you live, he says.

“At 65, you don’t want to be making risky investments because you’re panicking about not having enough money.”


Assess Trees Now to Avoid Winter Storm Calamities

December 9, 2013 7:18 pm

Winter is the season for some of nature's most severe weather, I was recently reminded that storms in all shapes and forms will be creating havoc throughout the country this winter, particularly on trees and landscaping.

Our frequent resource, Master Arborist Tchukki Andersen of the Tree Care Industry Association (TCIA.org) says some of the greatest storm-related dangers are posed by falling trees.

According to Andersen, species like Chinese elm, silver maple, boxelder and various poplars, have brittle wood that is easily broken. So these rapidly growing trees can cause a considerable amount of damage if the fall.

Andersen says property owners should avoid planting them close to potential targets, and if these trees are already established, preventive pruning, bracing or cabling may help reduce storm damage this winter.

Over the years, growing trees "catch" more wind and become heavier. That makes them prone to increased mechanical stresses, increasing the chances of failure.

Larger trees also affect an increased area should they or their larger limbs fall. This means that power lines, homes and other structures that might not have been threatened a few years ago might suddenly be under a tree that has grown.

So preparing trees for these natural disasters is a must and should be done well in advance of the stormy season. Andersen points property owners to the following warning signs:

  • Wires in contact with tree branches. Trees may become energized when they are contacted by electric wires.
  • Dead or partially attached limbs hung up in the higher branches that could fall and cause damage or injury.
  • Cracked stems and branch forks that could cause catastrophic failure of a tree section.
  • Hollow or decayed areas on the trunk or main limbs, or mushrooms growing from the bark that indicate a decayed and weakened stem.
  • Peeling bark or gaping wounds in the trunk also indicate structural weakness.
  • Fallen or uprooted trees putting pressure on other trees beneath them.
  • Tight, V-shaped forks which are more prone to failure than open U-shaped ones.
  • Heaving soil at the tree base is a potential indicator of an unsound root system.
  • Andersen says don't assume a tree that has survived 10 severe storms will survive an eleventh.

Source: tcia.org


Word of the Day

December 9, 2013 7:18 pm

Bylaws. Rules and regulations that govern how a homeowners’ association will be run.


Q: Should I Buy a Vacation Home as an Investment?

December 9, 2013 7:18 pm

A: Like any investment, it can be risky. Location and current market conditions are extremely important when deciding whether to buy.

Other things to consider:

  • Will you be able to afford repairs, maintenance, insurance, and utilities?
  • What about fees to pay agents who rent the property for you?
  • If you live several miles away from your vacation home, who will clean up between tenants and take an inventory of household items once the tenants leave?
  • What if you are unable to rent your second home? Can your pocketbook withstand the strain of paying the mortgage?

Gas Safety Tips for Cold Season

December 6, 2013 10:00 pm

As temperatures drop, another threat to safety is carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning. CO poisoning can occur as a result of a poorly ventilated heater or a CO leak from another source. Symptoms can include nausea, headaches, paralysis and even death. Remember the following tips to help prevent CO poisoning:

  • Have natural gas furnaces checked at least once a year by a licensed heating contractor or SoCalGas.
  • Vacuum and clean regularly in and around the furnace, particularly around the burner compartment to prevent a build-up of dust and lint.
  • Never store items in, on or around the appliance that can obstruct airflow.
  • Most forced-air units have a filter that cleans the air before heating and circulating it throughout the home. Check furnace filters every month during the heating season and clean or replace the filter when necessary. 
  • When installing a new or cleaned furnace filter, be sure to re-install the front panel door of the furnace properly so it fits snugly; never operate the furnace without the front-panel door properly in place because doing so may create the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.
  • Check the appearance of the flame. If the flame is yellow, large and unsteady, the furnace needs to be inspected immediately by a licensed heating contractor or SoCalGas to have the condition corrected.
  • Using an unvented gas heater in your home is dangerous and a violation of the California Health and Safety Code.
  • Never use your oven, range or outdoor barbecue to heat your home because these appliances are not designed for this purpose.
  • If you suspect that you or a loved one is suffering from CO poisoning, call 911 immediately.

Source: socalgas.com/safety