Gunning Daily News

Q: How Can I Make Energy Efficient Improvements to My Home?

March 1, 2013 5:32 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.

Staying Safe When Lightning Strikes

March 1, 2013 4:02 pm

While the chances of being struck by lightning are slim, with stormy weather coming our way in spring, it’s good to be prepared. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, an average of 54 people are reported killed each year by lightning. Hundreds more survive strikes but suffer from a variety of symptoms, including memory loss, dizziness and other ailments.

Although lightning can happen during anytime of the year, most lightning strikes and lightning fires occur most often in the summer. Michael Pruitt, fire safety expert, presents the following safety tips:

  • Look for shelter inside a home or large building.
  • Stay away from windows or doors.
  • Do not hide under tall trees for shelter.
  • Unplug appliances and other electrical items, like computers and electronic equipment.
  • Avoid washing your hands, doing laundry or washing dishes.
  • If a person is hit by lightning, call 911 and get medical care immediately.

As we know, no safety tip is 100 percent safety proof, but being aware can help increase your safety during severe weather come summer.

Michael Pruitt, a veteran firefighter, has served as a Deputy Chief and Fire Chief in Texas. He is one of a handful of executives worldwide who holds the distinguished Chief Fire Officer (CFO) designation. He is CEO of Michael Pruitt and Associates, a firm specializing in fire safety.

Adding Technology—and Style—to the Bedroom

March 1, 2013 4:02 pm

(Family Features)--When it comes to adding technology to your home, the bedroom might not be the first place you would consider. But the reality is that high tech is becoming an integral part of every living space -- including the bedroom.

A survey by the International Furnishings and Design Association (IFDA) looked at what designers expect to see in American homes by the year 2020. The report predicts that:

Master bedroom suites will get busier, sharing time as a home office, media center or exercise room.
97 percent of respondents believe that by 2020 many home furnishings will be activated by means such as voice and sensor. Primary candidates for remote control/motorized operation include lighting, entertainment gear, environmental controls and window treatments.

"High-tech is here to stay," says Emily Henderson, HGTV "Design Star" winner and designer on "Secrets from a Stylist" on HGTV. "Technology can make your life easier in so many ways. And with so much activity centered in the master suite, it makes sense to add useful tech devices into that living space, too."
Here are a few of Henderson's favorite ways to modernize the master bedroom in style:

Bed control

"It shouldn't take a lot of work to get comfortable enough to relax," said Henderson. "Traditional beds only have one position, and that's not going to be a good fit for everyone or every activity. That's why I love Leggett & Platt's adjustable bed bases. With a wireless remote I can easily change my position to be comfortable no matter what I'm doing."

Henderson says that today's adjustable base beds are not only more functional than old models, but they're more attractive, too. "You can find a style to fit your room and a model that offers the level of technology that you're comfortable with," she said.

Motorized window treatment control

"It's such a luxury to be able to lie in bed and use a remote to open your curtains or shades in the morning," said Henderson. "I think it officially means you are a grown up, but in a good way."

Henderson recommends that you get shades or curtains that have blackout lining, and ideally two settings -- one for privacy and light control, which would be lighter and thinner, and one with the blackout lining for that perfect dark room that you can sleep in. Blackout curtains also muffle outside noise. "I'm a big fan of The Shade Store motorized window treatments, which are all custom made. They are super high quality so less likely to break down and are still very attractive."

You can find motorized shades or shutters with a timer, which lets you program them to open and close whenever you like. Some have wall switches, while others have a remote control so you can operate them from anywhere.

Remote control TV mount
"Wall mounting your TV isn't anything new, but being able to lie in bed and control the exact placement (right, left, tilt up, tilt down) is a total luxury," says Henderson. "Many companies are starting to do this so you don't have to have the TV across from your bed, instead you can put it on a side wall and have the long extendable arm bring the TV to you -- by remote."

Make sure that your wall mount is compatible with your television.

Check the weight rating on the mounts and brackets to make sure they can support your TV.
Some mounts have different shapes to fit different screen sizes. Check the specification on the packaging to be sure.

Hide ugly cables with a cord concealer. You can find low-profile paintable flat screen cord cover kits at your local home improvement stores. Paint them to match your wall and they'll blend right in.

Heat control

Sleeping at the right temperature is crucial for a wakeless night's sleep, but finding an attractive thermostat can be tricky. "There are thermostats which you can control with your iPhone even if you are traveling, so that when you are headed home you can make sure it's warm enough without wasting a lot of energy," said Henderson.

These thermostats are intended to save you energy and money by automatically learning your patterns and behavior and adjusting itself accordingly.

You can also create your own personal comfort zone within the bedroom with temperature controlled pillows and blankets. And there's nothing quite like waking up and putting your feet down on heated flooring.

Music control

You want to listen to music on good quality speakers, but you don't want a huge speaker in your bedroom; nor do you want to have to get up and turn the stereo off. "Also, I don't always like the music right next to my ear, on the nightstand," says Henderson, "so instead I recommend a Bluetooth or wireless speaker that plugs into your wall. You can find speakers that are small and attractive with a great sound and can be controlled by your smartphone next to your bed."

When choosing a speaker, keep a few things in mind:

  • Bluetooth reach is limited to about 30 feet. Some speakers use Wi-Fi wireless network technology, which has wider coverage.
  • Some models have a dock for smartphones or other devices, as well as additional audio inputs for connecting other devices such as your TV. Make sure the model you choose is compatible with your devices -- some only work with iOS or Android systems.
  • Some wireless speakers come with remotes or voice recognition controls, but the quality varies. Read user reviews before making your decision.

Source: www.editors.familyfeatures.com.

Faux Fun: Imitation Brick, Stone Panels Are All the Rage

March 1, 2013 4:02 pm

Whether you have a quaint old cape or an edgy industrial condo conversion, brick and stone interior features are very popular. So your RIS Consumer Confidant went looking for some advice on cheap and effective ways to use faux stone or brick to spice up your space.

The experts at Antico Elements in Miami (anticoelements.com), say panels of faux brick actually offer great detail and texture while showcasing a variety of great designs and patterns - including more modern and industrial looks.

According to the folks at Antico, installation is key. Fortunately, panel placement can be done in minutes with little to no cleanup. Simple tools like screwdrivers, adhesive glues, a hammer and nails are all you need to dramatically change the energy and atmosphere of a home office, living room, dining room or family room.

A post at wisegeek.com says most faux panels are made from polyurethane, making it ideal for use inside and outside of the home.

Since faux brick can be used on almost any surface, you can even redo your modern or contemporary fireplace surround in faux brick. These particular panels have passed fire safety inspections and can withstand a high degree of heat.

Rough exterior faux brick panels can withstand heavy weathering elements and hard contact, like from a weed whacker or lawn mower. And most panels are naturally insulating, so they can be used over exterior siding.

Coloring is designed to repel UV rays and maintain their color without fading for many years, according to wisegeek.com, which is not sourced. Most common finishes for faux panels include stacked stone, river rock, slate, and natural brick.


Word of the Day

March 1, 2013 4:02 pm

Interest. A fee paid for the use of money; also a share or right in something.

Q: How Much Can I Expect to Spend on Maintenance?

March 1, 2013 4:02 pm

A: One percent of the purchase price of your home every year to cover everything from painting to repairing gutters to caulking windows and maintaining routine system repairs and maintenance. An older home may require more maintenance, although much will depend on how well it has been maintained over the years. Take the upkeep seriously, and budget accordingly. Otherwise, your home’s value could suffer if you allow it to fall into a state of disrepair. Remember, too, that the cost of good home maintenance is usually minor compared to what it will cost to remedy a situation that you allowed to get progressively worse. For example, unclogging and sealing gutters may cost a few hundred dollars. But repairing damage to a corner of your home where gutters have leaked can potentially cost several thousand dollars.

5 Tips to Keep Kids Safe Online

February 28, 2013 3:38 pm

The Internet offers a wonderful new world for children who can read and write – from fine educational materials to a wealth of fun games to a new way of keeping in touch. But access to the online world brings with it new risks to a child’s physical and emotional safety. How can a parent help their kids stay safe?

Primarily, say the editors at Scholastic Magazine, by setting rules, being a good role model, and communicating on a daily basis.

Scholastic staffers offer five tips for providing children and teens with a safer online experience:

Limit usage –
Give your child limited free online time to play games, instant-message friends or visit social networking sites – perhaps 30 minutes after school before homework begins. Make it a rule that family time starts with dinner. After that, the computer is an IM-free zone, to be used only for homework purposes.
Keep kids in sight - Have the computer centrally located. Your child is less likely to browse questionable content if she knows Mom or Dad (or brother/sister) might walk by at any second. This helps you monitor the time spent online as well as the sites visited.
Do your homework – Check the browser history to know where your child goes online. Check unknown sites for content. Use security tools and privacy features offered by your Internet service provider or purchased separately for extra protection.
Communicate openly - One out of every five kids gets sexual solicitations online. Strangers, predators, and cyber-bullies also target children. Talk to your kids about the need for not revealing name, age, gender, or hometown online – because if posts aren't marked as private, personal information is displayed to unrestricted audiences. Be sure your kids understand how important it is to communicate only with people they know.
Set a code of conduct and content – Set strict guidelines about suitable language, content, and behavior online. While it's important to direct kids to suitable websites, it's even more valuable to help them think critically about the content they read and see. Surfing the Web without restrictions can bring pop-up ads, viruses, erroneous information, and inappropriate content – and the ease of cutting and pasting means plagiarism can be a real concern when doing homework. Set strict guidelines and follow up to see that they are being followed.

As Housing Market Warms, Keep These Buying Tips in Mind

February 28, 2013 3:38 pm

(BPT) - Ready to buy your first home, or move up to a larger home for your expanding family?
Home sales seem to be finally warming up after a five-year chill, as demand gradually builds among first-time homebuyers and existing homeowners seeking more room. Historically low mortgage rates, rising rents and relatively positive economic indicators are enhancing consumer confidence and driving the trend, according to the National Association of REALTORS(NAR).

As demand grows, home prices for a median existing home are expected to rise as much as 5 percent nationwide in 2013, according to the NAR. This should encourage existing homeowners who've been patiently sitting on the sidelines to consider putting their homes on the market.

Even though the outlook is looking brighter, Daniel Watkins, an attorney who specializes in real estate law at the Watkins Firm, APC in San Diego, says the hurdles to buying a home in today's market are significantly higher than they were a few years ago.

"The big hurdle is financing. Expectations among lenders and sellers are a lot higher today," Watkins says. "If you're serious about buying a home, you need to have a sizeable down payment, a good credit score, low debt and a solid track record of employment to qualify for a loan."

Lenders are paying close attention to buyers' ability to repay a loan, according to FindLaw.com, the nation's leading legal information website. The generally accepted principle is that no more than 30 percent of a household's take-home income should go toward the principal, interest, taxes and insurance.

Here are some tips from FindLaw.com about buying a home within the next six to nine months:
  • Start planning now. Even if you're a year or more away from buying a home, start preparing now. Build up your cash for a down payment plus other expenses that come with owning a home. Check your credit report for accuracy. Pay all your bills on time and zero out all credit card debt. And don't take on new debt, like a large car payment.
  • Get a pre-approval letter. Home sellers want to know that you can get a loan to buy their home. It's OK to window shop, but don't make any offers unless you are certain you can obtain financing. After shopping around for a financial institution, get pre-approved for a home mortgage. Showing a seller a pre-approval letter will increase your chances of your offer being accepted. And don't be surprised if the seller or his real estate agent contacts your loan officer to verify that you've been pre-approved.
  • Build a strong buying position. As the home market warms up, bidding wars will become more common. However, the highest bid doesn't always win in today's housing market. Instead, home sellers want to know the deal will go through with smooth sailing. So, today, the highest value is being placed on non-contingent offers (not contingent on the sale of your home), pre-approved financing, higher-than-normal earnest money deposit and personalized bids (share with the seller why the home would be a perfect match for you and your family).
  • Get a lawyer. In some states, the law requires that a real estate attorney be part of the process of making an offer and reviewing loan documents as part of the closing, according to FindLaw.com. Where a real estate attorney isn't required, buyers and sellers should consider seeking legal assistance for relatively more complicated real estate transactions, such as purchasing a property directly from the homeowner, the purchase of a rental property, a short sale or the purchase of a foreclosed property.
  • Learn about the neighborhood. When you buy a home, you're also buying into a community. Start your home search by first targeting a neighborhood where you want to live. Avoid neighborhoods where homes are not being kept up, or yards are full of old cars and junk. Check out the schools, too. Great schools attract families, and keep up home values. Avoid busy streets, homes under flight patterns or near railroad tracks. And contact the local police department for crime statistics and the location of nearby sex offenders.
  • Keep your emotions in check. If you've found a home you like, don't fall in love with it yet. Make sure your offer is contingent upon a satisfactory home inspection conducted by an inspector that you hire (not the seller).
  • Save some extra money. Whether you're buying your first home or your third, moving and getting a household established can cost more than you anticipated. Make sure you save enough extra money to redecorate your new home to fit your lifestyle, and to pay for unexpected repairs.
For more information, visit www.findlaw.com.

Helping with Homework When Homework’s Too Hard

February 28, 2013 3:38 pm

You’ve probably seen a television ad for a national chain of tutoring centers: an older boy has a question about his math homework, but his mother takes one horrified look at the textbook and runs out of the house, straight to a tutoring center. Surely there’s a different, less-costly and more immediately-helpful response. But when the homework’s too hard—even for you—what else can you do?

First off, set some mental parameters for yourself.

• Shake off your own memories of freshman algebra or English 101 and focus on your child, not yourself.
• Make the quite reasonable assumption that the work really isn’t too hard for your child. Your kid is smart enough right? She does okay in other things, right? She can get this.
• Understand that it’s okay that you don’t have all the answers. You can learn along with your child. In doing so, you demonstrate how to tackle tough assignments and plow through to success.
• Do not transfer your dislike for a subject or your helplessly confused feelings to your child. Don’t be like the mother in that ad.

Second, follow some specific steps when your child throws down his pencil and yells for your help.
1. Make time for hard stuff. Set the hard work aside, do the other homework and reserve an hour or two for the tricky thing. Just doing this takes some pressure off and opens up the space for thinking. Putting the work aside for a while calms the head and also lets the unconscious brain come up with answers.
2. Read through the assignment directions or problem together. What is asked for? Where is the disconnect between what your child understands and what she’s expected to know or do?
3. Read through the chapter together. You can read it aloud, stopping to discuss the text with your child. Realize that most likely the key to the homework’s solution is in the text.
4. Read through the assignment directions or problem again. Does the assignment remind you of anything you just read together from the text? Is it clearer now what the child needs to do? If not, where is the disconnect? Go back and figure things out.
5. By now, things should be pretty clear. If they’re still not clear, now is the time to act. Activate your school’s homework hotline or call the reference desk at your local public library. Dial up a friend from class and see how he’s managing this assignment. The reason for waiting to activate these “lifelines” is this: now your child will be able to evaluate the suggestions he gets and understand how they are reasonable or off-base. He will be able to talk intelligently about the assignment and the content it represents. Even if your child doesn’t wind up doing the assignment correctly, he will understand the correct solution once he gets it.

One word of caution. Often, halfway through these steps, a child will say, “Oh, I get it!” and dismiss you from the homework table. This might be because he doesn’t want you to help anymore or because he really has figured it out. Either way, this is your cue to say, “Fine! Let me know if you need me later….” and get out of the way.

And a second caution. Resist the impulse to check your child’s work. If she asks you to, that’s fine, but only point out where you think she might have taken a wrong turn. Don’t actually fix her answers. And if she doesn’t ask you to check her work, don’t do it. This is her work, not yours.

Your role here is not one of supplying the answers. You don’t need to know anything about the subject at all. And getting everything right in the homework is not so important as understanding how to tackle tough assignments and get them done.

Your role is to be a calm supporter, who works alongside the child in figuring things out.

© 2013, Patricia Nan Anderson.

For more information, visit www.swparents.com.

Word of the Day

February 28, 2013 3:38 pm

Installment payment. Periodic payment, usually monthly, of interest and principal on a mortgage or other loan.