May 6, 2013 6:00 pm
A: Begin by focusing on those small cracks and crevices around doors and windows. According to Lowe’s, a 1/8” space between a standard exterior door and its threshold is equivalent to a two square inch hole in the wall. Close those gaps to save up to 15% in heating and cooling costs and also reduce the demand on your heating and cooling system. Other energy efficient steps: lower your water heater’s thermostat setting; blanket or insulate the water heater to reduce the amount of heat lost by the unit, particularly if it is located in an unheated area; insulate water pipes, at least the hot water pipes to prevent heat lost that can cause your water heater to work harder; change furnace filters to prevent reduced airflow through the heating/cooling system and overheating that can lead to premature compressor damage in the A/C systems; and install water-saving shower heads.
May 3, 2013 4:02 pm
(BPT)—One in five Americans suffers from allergies, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA). As the 2013 allergy season begins, experts warn that it may be one of the worst in recent years, with people experiencing an unusually strong reaction due to increased tree pollen.
But little attention is paid to the impact of indoor air on allergies, asthma and general health. We spend an average of approximately 90 percent or more of our time indoors, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The EPA reports that "indoor levels of pollutants may be two to five times higher, and occasionally more than 100 times higher, than outdoor levels."
How does this impact your next home-improvement project? A survey by Angie's List revealed Americans spend more than $300 billion annually on remodeling projects. Yet these endeavors typically focus solely on a home's aesthetics while ignoring one important consideration: Is your home healthy?
Start at the bottom
We all want beautiful floors in our homes. Many people, however, don't realize that some new flooring can threaten your indoor air quality. When flooring is installed, you may notice an odor for a few days or even weeks. The odor might mean noxious gases are emitting from the materials used during installation. And these emissions, particularly those resulting from volatile organic compounds (VOCs), could potentially have serious, long-term effects on your health - as well as an immediate impact on the health of family members with asthma or allergies.
The good news is gorgeous flooring options are now available that are certified "asthma and allergy friendly" by the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. In 2010, Tarkett Flooring committed resources toward developing flooring solutions that help people breathe easier. The company's FiberFloor is the industry's only residential flooring currently certified by the AAFA. To earn this certification, the flooring underwent rigorous testing by the AAFA and successfully met the following criteria:
* Installation of the flooring does not result in elevated levels of chemicals.
* The flooring has a low capacity for retaining allergens.
* The recommended cleaning of the flooring will not result in exposure to airborne allergens.
Spring for PVC-free accessories
Did you know that your shower curtain can be one of the greatest sources of noxious gas in your home? Many homeowners purchase PVC shower curtains and liners because of their functionality and ease of cleaning. However, according to "Practically Green," a website for people interested in green living, a recent study "found that 108 different volatile organic compounds, including those known to cause developmental, liver, nervous system, respiratory and reproductive damage, were released into indoor air by PVC shower curtains." Replacing current shower curtains and liners with PVC-free products are quick and inexpensive fixes that will make your bathrooms healthier for the whole family.
Manage mold and mildew
If you're noticing moisture or mold building up on your windows, have your home checked by an energy rater or a building analyst. To prevent moisture from getting in your windows, select windows made with double pane, insulated glass to create an insulating barrier and keep moisture, mildew or mold from developing. For added energy savings, you can opt for a Low Emissivity or "Lo-E" coating to keep heat from radiating beyond the side of the window where it originated. You'll save on your heating and air conditioning bills while also minding your health.
Home improvements should be a proud reminder that your home is your castle and you treat it well. This year, consider investing in simple projects that can also improve the health of the castle's residents.
May 3, 2013 4:02 pm
It may come as no surprise that sharing a diet plan or an exercise routine with a friend can help you stay on track.
“Adding public commitment to personal dedication is often what keeps you from falling off the wagon,” said Crunch fitness instructor Amy Flores.
One overweight mom in Missouri lost 70 pounds in seven months by taking the strategy one step further, Flores said – posting her commitment on a Facebook Page and inviting several dozen friends to not just join her in losing weight, but to donate cash to a favorite cause for every pound they lost.
“Once she took her goal public, Flores said, she didn’t dare fall off the wagon until she reached goal – and the same strategy could work whether you want to shed pounds, stop smoking, or accomplish any other health and fitness goal.”
Flores offers three tips for those who want to put the strategy in place:
- Give people plenty of notice – Whether you want your friends to donate money for each pound you lose, or donate to a charity of their choice as they work to hit their own goals, determine a start date and post your notice publicly several weeks before you plan to begin.
- Make tracking easy – Create a donation page on a site like GoFundMe or Causes, which provide easy templates to help you set a goal, track your progress, and share it via email and/or Facebook.
- Offer alternatives – Some of your friends may be glad to participate with the cause you have suggested. But give these willing pledgers an option for choosing a charity they care about, which may inspire them to donate more generously.
However you choose to proceed, Flores said, getting others involved will strengthen your commitment to achieving your goal and inspire others to do the same in a fun and positive way.
May 3, 2013 4:02 pm
(Family Features)—These days, people are thinking more about how to make smarter decisions with their spending. In fact, simple spending cut-backs can mean a huge difference to your family’s bank account. Get back to the basics of what you really need, and you’ll eliminate unnecessary spending and stress, while keeping more cash in your pocket.
Here are some easy tips to start you down the road to smarter spending:
Create a family spending plan. Start a weekly budget meeting with your family to make everyone aware of spending habits. Be sure to keep track of all transactions made throughout the week and prioritize necessities over luxuries. With families increasingly concerned with how they are spending, according to a recent Cricket Wireless survey, nearly two-thirds of Americans surveyed report paying bills as their highest priority and are using tax refunds to cover basic necessities.
Compare the rates. When reviewing monthly bills, compare the amounts you’re paying with others. According to Cricket’s survey, wireless phone plans, cable and electricity are considered the top most overpaid bills by consumers. Look for online comparative tools that can help evaluate the advantages between service providers. Consider easy ways to scale back spending on these items, such as going with a more flexible no-contract, prepaid wireless service that can be half the cost of contract carriers, or eliminate the number of movie channels subscribed to through your cable to curb spending and instead go with a lower cost digital movie subscription service.
Carpool with a buddy. Ask co-workers if they would be interested in carpooling with you. This will save you and your co-worker gas money, while also being environmentally friendly. Can’t find a co-worker who lives in your area? Many online websites exist to link those interested in sharing rides per region.
Cut those coupons. It may sound old fashioned, but you can score great deals on food and home goods when you dust off those scissors. Clip through your local Sunday newspaper, or search online. Many online sites offer extreme discounts on meals, gifts and services specific to your locale.
Eat economically. If you love eating out on a regular basis, plan to eat breakfast at home. Save your hard-earned cash for leisurely lunches and dinners where you can unwind with family and friends. This trick will lighten the load on your pocketbook, which is always easier to digest.
May 3, 2013 4:02 pm
Planned Unit Development (PUD). Individually owned houses with community ownership of common areas, such as swimming pools and tennis courts.
May 3, 2013 4:02 pm
A: Don’t jump too quickly to discard reusable fixtures. If your tub is in relatively good shape, consider having it re-glazed instead of replaced, according to the National Association of the Remodeling Industry. As for the walls around the tub, cultured marble sheets are cheaper to install than marble tiles and also easier to clean. Fiberglass is also less expensive than tile. If space is extremely limited and you cannot “steal” it from other areas of your home, purchase a jetted tub and shower combination or install a pedestal lavatory instead of a vanity cabinet with a sink. Remember, installing a large jetted tub can overtax your water heater, so consider adding a water heater that is dedicated to the tub to prevent problems later.
May 3, 2013 1:32 pm
If you’re currently pinching your pennies to save up for that summer getaway, then you may want to take a look at you energy expenditure, and what it’s costing you. Below are a handful of ways you can save energy, and cash.
- Replace regular bulbs with CFLs or LEDs. Lighting can be up to 20 percent of your home's energy use. Compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) or LEDs provide the same amount of light as incandescent bulbs using less energy. CFLs use up to 75 percent less energy than incandescent bulbs, can last up to 10 times longer and can save you up to $500 a year.
- Power down—use a power strip. Save up to $300 a year by using smart strips and unplugging items not in use. Many appliances are still drawing power, even when switched off. Using power strips or unplugging things like DVRs, sound systems, game consoles and flat screen TVs can save on your bill.
- Adjust your thermostat. Set your thermostat to 78 F for summer AC and 68 F for winter heat if your health permits. For every two degrees you turn down your thermostat in winter or up in summer, you can reduce costs by up to $200 a year.
- Lower your water temperature. A 20 F reduction can save you over $80 a year.
- Try cold water wash. Save up to $42 per year on electric water heating costs by washing with cold water.
- Save up to 50 percent on outdoor lighting. Reduce outdoor lighting costs by up to 50 percent with a motion sensor. Just one 150-watt outdoor security floodlight can cost up to $125 a year. A string of six low voltage landscape lights can cost more than $90 a year. Use a timer to turn these lights off after bedtime to save while you're asleep.
- Buy energy-efficient appliances. Save up to $80 a year on energy costs by choosing ENERGY STAR® appliances, such as a refrigerator
- Seal and insulate your home. You could lower your heating and cooling bill more than $250 per year by having proper insulation, a time-tested step that can help save energy year-round.
May 3, 2013 1:32 pm
(BPT)—As the warmer weather is upon us, it brings many new activities: baseball, picnics, beach time and - best of all - garage sales. People are purging what they don't need or no longer want. It's the perfect opportunity to turn their trash into your treasure. From outdated odds and ends to forgotten furniture, there is a wealth of worthy items just waiting to be found, re-imagined and re-purposed.
Pretty in paint
Rusty metal, chipped paint, colors from another decade - they are common sights for the garage sale shopper. But when you look beyond these imperfections - and at their spray paint potential - you'll soon find some diamonds in the rough.
Metal products, such as tables, chairs, garden tools or even watering cans, can receive an easy and instant update with Rust Protector spray paint from Krylon. The product, available in a variety of colors and finishes, dries in just eight minutes. As you create your new masterpieces, you won't have to worry about grass, leaves or other particles getting stuck in your fresh coat of paint. Plus, the paint provides the ultimate protection against rust, keeping your new treasures looking amazing, regardless of the elements they face.
If it's color you desire, look no further than Krylon's new ColorMaster spray paint with bold, bright or basic hues to update your new findings. Turn blah and bland wood chairs, dusty and drab dressers or awful accessories into amazing furniture or accents with the extensive line of color and finish choices. Covermax technology provides premium coverage and brilliant color. It's a new formulation that achieves better hide without relying on shading or fillers that can darken or wash out colors. The result is hues that are clean and crisp.
New uses for old things
The key to finding items at garage sales is to look at how they can be used in new and different ways. Don't view that dusty, broken typewriter or vintage camera as mechanical pieces you have to fix, but rather as interesting design elements to be admired on bookshelves and mantels.
Even old books can add a level of sophistication to your home. Grab a handful in coordinating colors to stack on a dresser or end table for instant eye appeal. Buy an old ladder and prop it against the wall to drape blankets. You can even spray paint an old coffee mug rack to create a fabulous jewelry organizer to hang all your favorite accessories. The possibilities are endless.
Turning up treasures
If your main reason for getting giddy over garage sales is to make a quick buck, you're not alone. Valuable items could lurk at every turn, and they are just waiting to be snatched up by eager buyers.
Before you head out to garage sales, however, do your research and read up on collectibles. Generally, pieces with high nostalgia will fetch a higher price tag. Think classic lunch boxes, comic books, sports memorabilia or board games - things you loved as a kid that never seem to go out of style. You can also enlist the help of a collectibles expert, who can tell you everything you need to know.
May 3, 2013 1:32 pm
Warm weather and summer sun are sure signs that the much-anticipated moving season is about to kick into high gear. With the busy moving season quickly approaching, these helpful tips are sure to come in handy.
The three most important moving tips you should know when moving:
- Plan your move in advance. Since nearly 45 percent of all moves occur between Memorial Day and Labor Day, make your truck reservation at least two to four weeks prior to your moving date.
- Avoid the weekend rush. Typically, Sunday through Thursday offers greater equipment availability, plus banks, utilities and government offices are open. In addition, rates may be lower during this time.
- Prior to your move, stop by or contact your neighborhood moving and storage center to get help with selecting boxes and packing supplies.
- Allow time for the rental process and be sure to conduct a walk-around inspection of the equipment at the time of pickup to become familiar with its features and operation, and to ask any questions you may have.
- Read the equipment user's guide for tips on driving and safety.
- Monitor the equipment while it is in your possession, just as you would your own personal vehicle.
Suggestions and tips on securing your rental equipment:
- Plan ahead. Make your reservations as far in advance as possible.
- Pack your boxes "strategically." Choose a "packing room" ahead of time and box up a few things each day. Mark each box with its contents and destination room. Have all your boxes packed before you go to rent your truck. Load the heaviest items first, in front and on the floor. Pack items firmly and closely.
- The last thing you want is the expense of having your personal belongings damaged. Protect your items by using the proper moving supplies, such as U-Haul packing peanuts, which are 100 percent biodegradable, bubble wrap or U-Haul furniture pads made from recycled denim.
- Always secure the back door of the moving van or trailer with a padlock.
- Always make sure your doors are locked.
- Always park your rental equipment legally and in a well-lit area.
- Back up your rental equipment as close as possible to a garage door, building or wall, and if you can, park another vehicle in front of the rental truck.
- When parking your vehicle at a hotel, we recommend that you park your equipment close to entry doors and, again, try to park in a well-lit area, making sure the equipment is locked.
- When parking your vehicle at a restaurant, make sure the doors are locked, the back door of the moving van is locked and then park it where you can see if from the window.
- Prior to moving, look into your homeowner's insurance policy, as some policies will cover belongings while moving as long as the insurance policy is in force during the move.
May 3, 2013 1:32 pm
Plat. Map or survey showing the location and boundaries of individual properties and how they have been subdivided into lots and blocks.