Gunning Daily News

Home Tech: Affordable and Uncomplicated Ideas to Add Enjoyment to Your Home

November 9, 2012 8:20 pm

(BPT) - Did you know it's almost the year that Michael J. Fox went 'back to the future?' While we don't have hover boards or flying cars, our innovations have changed drastically since 1985, especially when it comes to technology in the home. Now there are many affordable innovations that are simple to use and can add unique benefits and enjoyment to routine activities.

High-fashion, high-function faucets
Kitchen faucets continue to increase in functionality and style - but imagine the convenience of having a faucet that can sense what you're trying to accomplish, and with a simple wave of your hand, immediately responds to your needs. New MotionSense technology from Moen offers you three ways to operate the faucet. In addition to the traditional handle, you can activate the kitchen faucet by using the Wave Sensor - by waving your hand over the faucet to turn on and off - or the Ready Sensor - by placing your hands or an object under the spout.

Available at home improvement retailers, MotionSense is featured on the Haysfield pulldown kitchen faucet, which offers a soft modern design, and the Delaney pulldown kitchen faucet. Both are featured in a Spot Resist Stainless finish, which does just what it says - resists fingerprints and water spots.

Trouble-free towels
Continue your hand-free experience in the kitchen by adding an Innovia Automatic Paper Towel Dispenser. This unique product provides the exact amount of paper towel that you choose - without a single touch. A simple wave of the hand delivers one towel; or for bigger jobs, simply hold your hand in front of the sensor until you've achieved the desired amount. Unlike others on the market, it retracts unused sheets back into the clean and dry compartment.

Replacing towels can be done with any brand or size within seconds. Available in a variety of colors for an innovative and attractive addition to any kitchen, this product its under most cabinetry.

Water-saving washers and dynamic dryers
Previously, a washer and dryer did exactly what their names say - wash and dry. But for homeowners looking for the new era of high-tech cleaning machines, there is a wealth of options. Most washers today are high-efficient, meaning they use 20 to 66 percent less water than traditional agitator washers - an appealing benefit for the environmentally conscious, or for those just hoping to save on their water and electric bills. Plus, most are available with large-capacity tubs to accommodate bigger loads. And, with less water being used and high-speed spin cycles to remove more water, clothes feel dryer when they come out - saving time and energy on the drying cycle.

Today's dryers offer a variety of features, such as steam functions to remove wrinkles and odors, or sensors that detect when there is a lack of moisture and automatically turn off when items are dry. And, once you've found the set that includes the most high-tech features you desire, these once-commodity products are available in a variety of curvy, stylish looks and multiple colors. Consumer Reports is an excellent source to find the best set to meet your budget, style and feature needs.

Thinking thermostat
We've all left the air conditioning blasting on a hot day (when no one is even home); or, left for vacation without altering the thermostat. These worries can be a thing of the past with the new learning thermostat, The Nest. The new product, which WiredMagazine calls the 'the iPod of thermostats,' offers artificial intelligence that figures out when to turn down the heat and when to turn up the air conditioning, so that you don't waste money and energy. Plus, you can communicate with The Nest from your smartphone, tablet or any computer. Created by the designer for iPod hardware, Tony Fadell, The Nest ($249) will likely pay for itself within a year or two of use, and ultimately save up to 30 percent of your utility bill, according to Nest Labs research.

While your neighbors may think they're high-tech with Wi-Fi, smartphones and laptops, be the first to embrace these unique, new technologies into your home and also become the envy of the neighborhood. Soon, you can simply and affordably add enjoyment, ease and even energy savings into your lifestyle.

Napping: Not Just for Kids

November 9, 2012 8:20 pm

For some people, an afternoon nap is a signal you are losing your edge. For others –and not just for the elderly – naps can be a valued way of life. Most people, say the sleep experts at the Mayo Clinic, fall somewhere in the middle of the spectrum. But whether you’re sleep-deprived or looking for a way to relax, it’s good to understand when and how to get the most out of napping.

The Upsides:
    Napping offers various benefits for healthy adults:

Relaxation

Reduced fatigue

Increased alertness

Improved mood

Improved performance, including quicker reaction time, better memory,and fewer accidents or mistakes

The Downsides:

Sleep inertia – some people may feel groggy or disoriented after napping

Nighttime sleep problems – while short naps do not generally affect nighttime sleep patterns, napping could worsen problems for those who generally sleep poorly.

The bottom line:
Experts agree you should consider taking a nap if you are not feeling well, if you are feeling unusually fatigued, or if you are about to experience sleep loss, such as having to work an unexpected night shift. Under normal circumstances, to get the most out of napping, consider these simple tips:

Keep it short – A 10 to 30 minute nap provides the best opportunity to wake up feeling refreshed – and some people claim that a 10-minute power nap dramatically increases productivity.

Make it restful – Nap in a dim, quiet place with few distractions and a comfortable temperature.

Time it right – The optimal time to nap is midafternoon, the time when you may experience after-lunch drowsiness or a lower level of alertness. Naps taken between 2 and 3 p.m. are less likely to interfere with nighttime sleep. Also, sticking to the same schedule is helpful if you plan to make napping a part of your daily routine.

Q: Should I buy a vacation home as an investment?

November 9, 2012 4:46 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?

7 Credit Myths that Can Hurt You

November 9, 2012 4:46 pm

These days, it seems easy for credit scores to be damaged and difficult to improve your scores even when you’ve done nothing wrong. Because scores can be so important to your buying power and even job fitness, and because every little factor counts in determining your scores, Forbes Magazine finance writer Erik Carter offers seven credit myths that could be hurting your scores and costing you money:

I’ve done nothing wrong–Some 70 percent of credit reports contain errors. So even if you think you’ve done everything right, you could be paying higher interest rates because a reporting error has not been corrected.

Checking my scores will hurt me – Checking your own scores once each year will not impact your credit rating.

Okay, I’ve checked – Remember, there are three credit reporting companies; Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. You need to check all three to be sure there are no errors.

The source doesn’t matter – Yes, it does. Some inquiry sites only give you access to one report. Others, like freecreditreport.com, ironically are not free. They charge a fee to see your report and then charge you a monthly fee unless you cancel. Go to annualcreditreport.com, which allows free access to each of your credit reports once every 12 months.

I’ve paid it off, so I’ll close it – Closing an account when you’ve paid it off can actually hurt your credit score. If it’s a card you’ve had for a while, closing it can reduce your credit history, which is about 15 percent of your score. Also, if you have any debt, closing a card can increase your debt utilization or the ratio of debt to credit available. Instead, you can always cut up the card and not use it.

Bankruptcy is the end of the world – It’s painful and can take seven to 10 years to be removed from your credit report, but many credit scores are practically recovered in far less time. If you can’t pay your debts, think of bankruptcy as a second chance that’s better than allowing the debt to continue hurting your score.

Maintaining a balance will increase my credit score – Opening and using a credit card can increase your score, especially if you’re starting to build or rebuild your credit. But keeping a balance will only increase your interest payments. Remember that having a lot of debt can hurt your score.

Setting the Right Price - Scientifically Proven to Sell Your Home

November 9, 2012 2:42 pm

I am always looking for the best advice for folks who are trying to sell their homes, and to get an honest deal. This brought me to some research published by Ken H. Johnson, Ph.D. of Florida International University. Dr. Johnson is editor of the Journal of Housing Research and guest blogger at Keeping Current Matters (kcmblog.com).


Dr. Johnson recently wrote about the important research of professor John R. Knight, who studied the impact of changing a property’s listing price to produce a sale. Knight also examined the types of property that are most likely to experience a price change.  

Findings from Knight’s research indicate that on average, properties undergoing listing price changes take longer to sell, and suffer a price discount greater than similar properties. Furthermore, bigger price changes are found to experience even longer marketing times and greater price discounts.  

Finally, as for which properties are most likely to experience a price change, Knight finds that the greater the initial markup, the higher the likelihood that any given property will experience a listing price change.

With that in mind, Dr. Johnson says sellers—as well as brokers/agents—should be aware of the critical necessity of getting the price correct from the start. Sellers wanting to over list will ultimately take longer to sell and will sell their property for less, on average, according to Knight.  

Brokers/agents’ desire to take a listing and get the price right later will ultimately lead to their working harder, according to Knight, and they are not doing their sellers any favors. Thus, an initial and detailed analysis of the proper price is much more critical than many originally thought.

Dr. Johnson found in his own research that the direction (up or down) of the listing price change does not matter. A listing price increase or decrease both lead to similar results found in Knight’s work – longer marketing times and lower prices.  

Therefore, get the price right from the beginning. In our next segment, we’ll focus on how to determine that right price from the get-go.

Q: Should I buy a vacation home as an investment?

November 9, 2012 2:42 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?



Word of the Day

November 9, 2012 2:42 pm

Binder.  Short purchase contract used in some areas to secure a real estate transaction until a more formal contract can be signed at a later date; usually accompanied by an earnest money deposit.

7 Credit Myths that Can Hurt You

November 9, 2012 2:42 pm

These days, it seems easy for credit scores to be damaged and difficult to improve your scores even when you’ve done nothing wrong.  Because scores can be so important to your buying power and even job fitness, and because every little factor counts in determining your scores, Forbes Magazine finance writer Erik Carter offers seven credit myths that could be hurting your scores and costing you money:

I’ve done nothing wrong–Some 70 percent of credit reports contain errors. So even if you think you’ve done everything right, you could be paying higher interest rates because a reporting error has not been corrected.

Checking my scores will hurt me – Checking your own scores once each year will not impact your credit rating.

Okay, I’ve checked – Remember, there are three credit reporting companies; Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. You need to check all three to be sure there are no errors.

The source doesn’t matter – Yes, it does. Some inquiry sites only give you access to one report. Others, like freecreditreport.com, ironically are not free. They charge a fee to see your  report and then charge you a monthly fee unless you cancel. Go to annualcreditreport.com, which allows free access to each of your credit reports once every 12 months.

I’ve paid it off, so I’ll close it – Closing an account when you’ve paid it off can actually hurt your credit score. If it’s a card you’ve had for a while, closing it can reduce your credit history, which is about 15 percent of your score. Also, if you have any debt, closing a card can increase your debt utilization or the ratio of debt to credit available. Instead, you can always cut up the card and not use it.

Bankruptcy is the end of the world – It’s painful and can take seven to 10 years to be removed from your credit report, but many credit scores are practically recovered in far less time. If you can’t pay your debts, think of bankruptcy as a second chance that’s better than allowing the debt to continue hurting your score.

Maintaining a balance will increase my credit score – Opening and using a credit card can increase your score, especially if you’re starting to build or rebuild your credit. But keeping a balance will only increase your interest payments. Remember that having a lot of debt can hurt your score.



Investing In Long-Term Energy Savings

November 8, 2012 5:30 pm

In this segment, we’re going to talk about long-term energy savings and consider a few effective but higher cost efficiency initiatives. While these investments are somewhat larger than that of simply caulking a window, the potential savings are larger as well.

These investments include:

-Making sure you have good insulation in exterior walls, ceilings with cold spaces above, and floors with cold spaces below.
-Installing and closing storm windows.
-Consider new windows designed to decrease radiant heat loss without lowering visibility.
-Considering having a solar water heating component installed. This small, easily installed system is virtually maintenance free and warms the water your family uses on a daily basis, using free heat from the sun.

The Energy Communications Council (ECC) also suggests you talk with your local heating oil dealer about Bioheat, a cleaner burning, renewable product that can be blended seamlessly with the heating oil you already use. It lowers emissions and cuts down on the amount of traditional heating oil used.

According to Cape & Islands Self Reliance (reliance.org), a Massachusetts nonprofit promoting environmentally sustainable energy programs, Bioheat is petroleum based heating oil that is blended with some percentage of biodiesel (typically 2-20 percent). Biodiesel is a diesel fuel and heating oil alternative that is made from vegetable oil instead of petroleum oil.

Bioheat works in any regular heating fuel application, such as home heating oil equipment, commercial boilers and diesel generators, without any modifications. To maximize the benefits of using bioheat, our product is made from 20 percent biodiesel (80 percent regular heating oil).

And in states where ultra-low sulfur heating oil is sold, biofuels can be blended, creating a fuel suitable for burning in the world’s most efficient heating equipment.

6 Additional Tips for Making Sure You Are Better Off Four Years from Now

November 8, 2012 5:30 pm

Are you better off now than you were four years ago?

Though the recession and the hardships that followed mean many Americans can’t answer that question with a simple “yes” or “no,” personal finance guru Eric Tyson suggests it might be more to your benefit to ask yourself a slightly different question: What can you do now to ensure you are better off in four years, no matter who gets elected?

“Does it matter who gets elected president?” asks Tyson, author of “Personal Finance For Dummies®, 7th Edition.” “Absolutely. But regardless of who is elected and no matter what your current economic situation may be, what’s most important for you and your family is knowing how to make sound financial decisions for now and the future.”

To improve your financial outlook during the next four years, read on for a few of Tyson’s tried and true personal finance tips, continued from the previous nine tips published last week.

Avoid brand names.
Be suspicious of companies that spend gobs on image-oriented advertising. Branding is often used to charge premium prices. Meanwhile, blind taste tests have demonstrated that consumers can’t readily discern quality differences between high- and low-cost brands with many products.

“Question the importance of the name and image of the products,” says Tyson. “Companies spend a lot of money creating and cultivating an image, which has no impact on how their products taste or perform. This is especially important to keep in mind when you’re grocery shopping. Most of the time the ingredients are the same in store-brand products as in the brand-name products (and may even be made by the same company). You don’t need to shell out money to pay for the name.”

Look for ways to save around the house.
Look for ways to save on energy costs. Adding insulation and weather-stripping, installing water-saving devices, and reducing use of electrical appliances can pay for themselves in short order. Many utility companies will even do a free energy review or audit of your home and suggest money-saving ideas. If it’s time to replace an appliance, investigate energy efficiency before you buy appliances or even a new home.

“Get the whole family in on the effort to make your home more energy efficient,” suggests Tyson. “Have a contest to see who can remember to turn off the lights or other electronics most often or who can reduce how much water they use daily.”

Keep an eye on car costs. By doing basic maintenance such as oil changes, you can add years to the life of your car and get better gas mileage. What’s more, if you’re accustomed to buying a new car every few years, it’s time to change that mindset.

Don’t go on vacations you can’t afford.
Going to the beach for a week or to Disney World is not an entitlement. These kinds of vacations are very expensive. If you can’t afford them, you can’t afford them. The truth is, says Tyson, there are plenty of activities you can do near home that are just as fun as going away somewhere—at a fraction of the cost.

You can take a week off and explore your own city: There may be zoos, museums, gemstone mines, historic sites, and so forth that you haven’t visited in years (or ever). You can go hiking or camping in a local wilderness spot. Or visit relatives you rarely see who have an unfamiliar lifestyle—if you’re a “city mouse” family, spend a few days on the farm with Great Aunt Bertha.

Get creative about family activities. When you focus on spending lots of quality time with friends and family, you won’t feel the need to fill the void in your life with costly distractions.

“Instead of thinking about life in terms of what things cost, start thinking about it in terms of time,” says Tyson. “Often, all those unnecessary things we buy for ourselves and our kids are simply distractions from the people we love. They send the message that it’s necessary to spend a lot of money in order to have a good time. It’s not, of course. The best things in life—friends, family, quiet evenings at home just being together—really are free. Sometimes it’s good to be reminded of that.”

Raise frugal kids. Make no mistake, kids are expensive. The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates it will cost nearly a quarter of a million dollars to raise a child born in 2010 (and that’s not counting college). But whatever you do, don’t add to that price tag by spoiling kids, says Tyson.

“They don’t need the latest technology, expensive summer camps, pricey clothing, lavish parties, and so forth,” he insists. “When you keep these things to a minimum, not only will you save money but you’ll raise non-materialistic kids with good values and well-developed financial management skills of their own.”

“When it comes to your finances, steady wins the race, no matter who is president,” says Tyson. “Ultimately, you determine your financial situation based on the decisions you make for yourself. Always keep that in mind as you plan your weekly, monthly, and yearly budgets.”

Source: www.erictyson.com.