Gunning Daily News
May 24, 2012 5:10 pm
A: Many people flock to refinance while mortgage interest rates are low, particularly when rates are about two percentage points below their existing home loans.
Other factors, like when to finance, will depend on how long you plan to hold on to your home and whether you have to pay considerable fees to refinance. It also will depend on how far along you are in paying off your current mortgage.
If you expect to sell your home relatively soon, you are not likely to recoup the costs you incurred to refinance. And if you are more than halfway through paying your current mortgage, you probably will gain little by refinancing. However, if you are going to own your home for at least another five years, that is probably long enough to recoup any refinancing costs and realize real savings as a result of lowering your monthly payment.
In fact, if it costs you nothing to refinance, you can gain even more. Many lenders will let you roll the costs of the refinancing into the new note and still reduce the amount of the monthly payment. Plus, there are no-cost refinancing deals available.
Contact your lender, and its competitors, before you refinance.
May 23, 2012 6:28 pm
(ARA) - Now, more than ever, homeowners are adding to the value and comfort of their homes by renovating bathrooms into private retreats with luxurious touches that rival those of an upscale spa or resort.
Ron and Susan Bishop of Adams Township, Pa., recently completed an extensive remodel of the master bathroom in their 20-year-old home. The remake covered nearly every square inch of the space, including the installation of new cabinets, tile, floor coverings and lighting. The couple says one of the biggest highlights is the custom shower enclosure, which uses a fused-on coating to keep its showroom appearance over time.
When considering an update for your bathroom, whether you choose to do an extensive remodel or a smaller project, most kitchen and bath designers agree on these tips:
Consider the size of the bathroom. If you have a small room, look for ways to make it feel more expansive. A sleek, stylish glass shower enclosure helps your bathroom appear more spacious, and in most instances, a frameless shower enclosure will provide the cleanest, most open look. If you decide to go with a framed shower enclosure, you'll have two choices: frameless sliding doors or framed doors. For framed doors, be sure the finish of the metal framing and handles matches your bathroom fixtures.
Think outside the box. Taking a creative approach to bathroom necessities can help you make the most of your space. For instance, the majority of shower enclosures are square or rectangular, but today's designers encourage you to think about other shapes. Don't be afraid to consider a circular or oval-shaped enclosure, a triangle or even a standard shape with an artfully bowed glass door, which can redefine the space and make your bathroom more versatile.
Brighten things up. Repainting your bathroom with light colors can make it feel more spacious. If your bathroom has windows or skylights, use window treatments and accents that maximize the amount of light that comes through to give the room a more airy feel.
Find the best use for your space. Move bathroom cleaning items to a hall closet if you are stretched for storage space in your bathroom, especially if you have freestanding storage units that are taking up valuable floor space. If you need more storage space, consider adding built-in compartments if possible between your wall studs to maximize useable space.
It's been shown time and time again that remodeling a bathroom can add to a home's value. Whether you want to sell or just enjoy your home more, it's one of the most practical and dramatic ways to make your home more appealing.
May 23, 2012 6:28 pm
(ARA) - While most people want to help the environment in theory, when it comes down to buying green cleaning products for their office or small business, many put concerns about effectiveness and cost above whether a product is "green."
Close to 60 percent of office workers polled by Staples last year for Earth Day said that while they thought their company was green, they could always do more, with only 30 percent saying they buy sustainable paper and cleaning products for their break room. This spring cleaning season, Staples examines the cost and effectiveness of green cleaners to see if the facts match the public's perception.
Examining the effectiveness of green cleaners
Many green cleaners available today feature labels from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Design for the Environment (DfE) program and/or Green Seal. The U.S. EPA Design for the Environment (DfE) program uses the DfE label on chemical-based household and commercial products that meet the program's stringent human and environmental health criteria. Green Seal certification ensures that a product meets rigorous, science-based leadership standards. This gives manufacturers the assurance to back up their claims and purchasers confidence that certified products are better for human health and the environment.
What many people don't know is that for any cleaning product to earn either the DfE or Green Seal eco-labels, the product must undergo performance testing to verify that it meets or exceeds the performance of conventional cleaning products in the same category. When designed the right way and used for the right application, green cleaners work as well or better than conventional cleaning products.
Previously, it had been difficult to find a disinfecting green cleaner. Consumers and businesses that needed a disinfectant for specific applications couldn't find a greener option and had to resort to traditional cleaners. However, new cleaners are being introduced (like Seventh Generation's Multisurface Disinfecting Spray) that combine both cleaning and disinfecting agents made from natural plant-based sources and free of the harsh chemicals found in traditional disinfectants. Shifting to a green cleaning regimen can help improve indoor air quality for building occupants and janitorial staff and reduce the need for protective gear and additional safety concerns. But do green cleaners cost more?
Green cleaners - can they be less expensive than the alternative?
While some environmentally responsible cleaning products can cost more, not all do. For instance, based on a price comparison of products on Staples.com, the average ready-to-use all purpose cleaner costs 15 cents per ounce, while the green equivalents from Clorox (Clorox Greenworks All Purpose Spray) and Staples Sustainable Earth Brand (Sustainable Earth All Purpose spray) average 14 cents per ounce. The cost of the average glass cleaner is 10 cents per ounce, the same cost per ounce for Sustainable Earth's alternative.
Other factors to weigh when comparing price include the concentration of the cleaner. Sustainable Earth makes a Neutral Cleaner concentrate that will yield up to 257 gallons of cleaner when mixed with tap water for only $29.99, less than 12 cents a gallon. Compare that to the average price per gallon ($15.48) for a regular gallon of pre-mixed all-purpose cleaner on Staples.com and, as long as you're willing to buy in bulk and mix the cleaner yourself, it's really no comparison.
What about when it comes to paper products used to clean offices, like hard wound/roll paper towels? The average hardwound paper towel costs 1.2 cents per foot, while the costs of green alternatives from Envision Recycled, Scott, Kleenex and Sustainable Earth actually average 1.1 cents per foot. But it's not just the price of green and non-green paper towels that can affect the overall cost and impact on the environment. Consider too, the way paper towels are distributed. According to CleanLink.com, the most cost-effective towels are hard wound/roll towels, as they "feature controlled portion dispensing, which reduces consumption because folded systems allow users to take more towels than are required."
While there are many factors to consider when purchasing cleaning supplies, including price, labor costs, distribution method and employee safety, in most cases green cleaning supplies match the traditional offerings in value and performance.
May 23, 2012 6:28 pm
Summer is a wonderful time for outdoor activities with family and friends. For many people, a day at the beach, on the boat, or at a backyard barbecue will include drinking alcoholic beverages. But excessive drinking and summer activities don't mix. Drinking impairs both physical and mental abilities, and it also decreases inhibitions—which can lead to tragic consequences on the water, on the road, and in the great outdoors. In fact, research shows that half of all water recreation deaths of teens and adults involve the use of alcohol.
Swimmers can get in over their heads
Alcohol impairs judgment and increases risk-taking, a dangerous combination for swimmers. Even experienced swimmers may venture out farther than they should and not be able to make it back to shore, or they may not notice how chilled they're getting and develop hypothermia. Surfers could become over-confident and try to ride a wave beyond their abilities. Even around a pool, too much alcohol can have deadly consequences. Inebriated divers may collide with the diving board, or dive where the water is too shallow.
Boaters can lose their bearings
According to research funded by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, alcohol may be involved in 60 percent of boating fatalities, including falling overboard. And a boat operator with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) over 0.1 percent is 16 times more likely to be killed in a boating accident than an operator with zero BAC. According to the U.S. Coast Guard and the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators, alcohol can impair a boater's judgment, balance, vision, and reaction time. It can also increase fatigue and susceptibility to the effects of cold-water immersion. And if problems arise, intoxicated boaters are ill equipped to find solutions. For passengers, intoxication can lead to slips on deck, falls overboard, or accidents at the dock.
Drivers can go off course
The summer holidays are some of the most dangerous times of the year to be on the road. When on vacation, drivers may be traveling an unfamiliar route or hauling a boat or camper, with the distraction of pets and children in the car. Adding alcohol to the mix puts the lives of the driver and everyone in the car, as well as other people on the road, at risk.
Stay hydrated and stay healthy
Whether you're on the road or in the great outdoors, heat plus alcohol can equal trouble. Hot summer days cause fluid loss through perspiration, while alcohol causes fluid loss through increased urination. Together, they can quickly lead to dehydration or heat stroke.
But this doesn't have to happen. At parties, make at least every other drink a nonalcoholic one. If you're the host, be sure to provide plenty of cold, refreshing nonalcoholic drinks to keep your guests well hydrated. If you know you'll be driving, stay away from alcohol. And remember, there's no shame in taking a cab or sleeping on a friend's couch if you feel at all unsure if you should be driving.
Summer will end, but consequences can endure
You can have fun in the sun and still be safe. Avoiding beverages that cause mental and physical impairment while piloting a boat, driving a car, exploring the wilderness, and swimming or surfing is a good place to start. Be smart this summer—think before you drink, and make sure that you and your loved ones will be around to enjoy many summers to come.
Myths and Facts
MYTH: If you drink just beer or wine, you'll be fine.
FACT: It doesn't matter what type of alcohol you chose to consume—a drink is a drink. Your blood alcohol content (also known as BAC, the percentage of alcohol in your blood) is what determines how drunk you are.
MYTH: Drink coffee. Caffeine will sober you up.
FACT: Caffeine may help with drowsiness, but not with the effects of alcohol on decision-making or coordination. The body needs time to metabolize (break down) alcohol and then to return to normal. There are no quick ways to sober up—only time will help.
May 23, 2012 6:28 pm
While the number of seniors active online continues to grow, there are still many expressing reluctance to use the web due to fear of the potential dangers associated with online activity. Rather than see seniors forego the benefits that can be derived from the web, especially from social networking, the following tips can help family caregivers teach online safety.
“The web is a tool that can produce many benefits for seniors,” says Barry Birkett, Senior Care Corner co-founder. “Our tips are intended to serve as part of the instructions for using that tool safely and with respect for what can happen if a user isn’t cautious.”
There are many practices users employ to protect themselves online, so many that an exhaustive list may serve to reinforce the fears keeping many seniors from the web. Senior Care Corner’s list of senior web safety tips is intended to be short enough to be memorable and applied by those new to the Internet but still guide them to safe online practices.
Basic Tips for Online Safety
1. As said so well in the movie “The Social Network,” “the internet isn’t written in pencil, it’s written in ink.” In other words, keep in mind that anything posted on Facebook, written in an email or which otherwise makes it online just might be out there permanently—and control is lost once it’s posted. Many people have experienced negative repercussions from information they, friends or loved ones have innocently posted online.
2. When it comes to email, don’t click on any links unless absolutely certain they’re legitimate; don’t assume that official looking emails from your bank, the government or anyone is from the party listed as the sender – confirm separately before providing any private or personal information; and, don’t believe too-good-to-be-true news of prizes, requests to help move money from other nations, or other stories.
3. Choose passwords and password hints – those questions websites ask for use when you forget your password – carefully. Be sure to avoid using information that someone seeking to access your accounts can find on your Facebook page or elsewhere online—because they are looking. Unfortunately, many of the hint questions used by sites request information often available in social media profiles.
4. When accessing the web through a public WiFi hotspot, such as those found at coffee shops, fast
food outlets and many other locations, avoid entering passwords or other private information to avoid having it stolen by someone eavesdropping on your online activity through the hotspot. For loved ones in a senior living facility, check with the staff to learn how to access the internet securely, as most now provide accommodation for residents.
While these tips don’t guarantee 100 percent safety online, when combined with a sense of caution in one’s approach to activity on the web they will go a long way in assuring users an experience that is enjoyable.
May 23, 2012 6:28 pm
Gentrification. Process whereby private or government-sponsored development of certain aging neighborhoods results in the displacement of low- or moderate-income families by the more affluent and leads to an increase in property values.
May 23, 2012 6:28 pm
A: With a refinancing, you pay off an old loan on your home and take out a new one, usually at a lower mortgage interest rate. To refinance, you will generally need to have equity in your home, a good credit rating, and steady income. You can borrow a percentage of the equity to cover remodeling costs, debt consolidate, and college tuition.
When you refinance, you will incur all the closing costs that go along with getting a new mortgage. So unless you are doing extensive renovations and can get a mortgage interest rate at least two points below your current loan rate, you may want to select another financing option.
May 22, 2012 6:16 pm
In our last segment, I began exploring the many ways new green building systems are being exposed to the mainstream as part of Epcot's VISION House, where millions have an opportunity to explore the major themes of whole-home automation, energy generation and efficiency, water conservation, indoor environmental quality and high-performance materials and durability.
We previously revealed how home sprinklers can help protect the environment, as well as save lives. Now, we will take a look at how a new roofing product from a Roswell, Ga. based company called Boral is also hard at work reducing carbon emissions that have such a negative impact on public health and air quality.
VISION House utilizes BoralPure "Smog-Eating Tile," a first of-its-kind product in sustainable concrete roofing tiles that reduces the formation of smog. The revolutionary Smog-Eating Tile can be installed on both new residential and commercial buildings, as well as re-roofing projects.
According to information available at the Epcot exhibit, in one year, 2,000 square feet of Boral Smog-Eating Tile mitigates the same amount of nitrogen oxide—a major component of smog—produced by one car driving up to 10,800 miles.
The smog eating technology works via a catalyst embedded in the upper portion of the roof tile. When exposed to sunlight it speeds up oxidization reducing nitrogen oxide, which can be generated from fossil fuel burning processes resulting from operation of motor vehicles.
Working much like a catalytic converter in a car, the Boral tile incorporates a photo catalytic agent, titanium dioxide, to break down nitrogen oxide molecules and significantly reduce their impact on the environment.
Nitrogen oxide molecules can cause respiratory diseases along with permanent damage to plants and trees.
For more information on Boral Roofing and its clay and concrete roof tile systems, visit BoralNA.com.
May 22, 2012 6:16 pm
These days, most people are looking for bargains. But, says personal finance blogger Len Penzo, a bargain may depend on your definition. A lower-than-usual price on an item you use regularly might certainly be a bargain. A cheaper ‘knock-off’ of that same item may not be – especially if it wears out more quickly.
For those for whom the bottom line is almost always about price, here are Penzo’s recommendations regarding things that are worth paying more for:
• Bed sheets – Considering that we spend about a third of our lives in bed, you’ll be more comfy with soft, breathable cotton sheets than with cheaper, rougher synthetics.
• Non-stop flights – They’re not always easy to find, but they may be worth paying more for to arrive fresher and more relaxed at the end of a long journey.
• Coffee – for brewing at home, a good brand generally taste better than a store brand or even some well-known brands. If you find one you like, stick to it.
• Carpet padding – a thicker carpet pad will not only provide more comfort, but can extend the life of your carpet.
• Toilet paper – There are plenty of cheap brands, but the expensive brands get the job done better, so you may be using less of it in the long run.
• Shoes – a good, comfortable pair of shoes will likelier avoid blisters and sore feet and outlast a cheaper pair.
• Clothing – Cheaper clothes are okay for kids, who outgrow them soon enough. For adults, a few, good quality pieces will endure the tests of time and changing fashions far better than cheaper wannabes.
• Tools – Good quality tools, especially those with a lifetime guarantee of repair or replacement, will likely last as lifetime without needing repair or replacement.
• Internet service – It’s worth paying more for blazing fast connection, which you often do not get from a bargain service – but you may need to check them out to see the difference.
• A nice neighborhood – Especially if you are raising a family, it may be worth giving up some square footage or other amenities in order to live in a better neighborhood.
May 22, 2012 6:16 pm
As the economy improves, consumers are hitting the road and increasing their summer vacation budgets, with 53 percent planning to spend more than $1,500 compared to 39 percent in 2011. Orbitz surveyed nearly 1,000 U.S. travelers about their summer travel plans and of those surveyed 77 percent are taking a vacation this summer, with more than half (56 percent) planning to travel by car and 39 percent by air. The majority of consumers (60 percent) said gas prices will be a factor in where they travel this summer.
Based on the Orbitz survey, more consumers are planning to travel in July (31 percent) rather than in June (18 percent) or August (20 percent) with the rest of travelers still undecided. With increased airfares and hotel rates this summer, researching deals and being flexible on travel dates can stretch summer vacation budgets.
"Hotel prices in many of the most popular destination this summer are cheaper in June vs. July, including those in eight of the Orbitz top 10 summer destinations," says Jeanenne Tornatore, Senior Editor of Orbitz.com. "Travelers that can be flexible on travel dates should consider a June getaway when daily hotel rates are 6 percent less expensive, on average."
3 Tips to Avoiding the Budget Barrier
Consumers should not let budgets be the barrier to taking a more than memorable vacation this summer. For those looking to take a fabulous vacation without stretching their finances, Tornatore shares a few summer budget travel tips:
• Follow the sale. Even with rising travel costs this year, summer promotions and deals are plentiful.
• Search all nearby airports and consider traveling on off-peak days and times to help curb higher airfare costs. Expanding search options to include airports within a reasonable radius to departure and arrival destinations will provide more flight and price options. Also, traveling on off-peak days such as early in the week versus the weekend will save consumers green this summer.
• Book a package deal. Avoid a la carte booking and combine air, hotel and car together to optimize savings.
Additional Findings from the Orbitz Summer Travel Survey
• More travelers feel guilty about leaving behind their pet (33 percent) than their children (30 percent) when they go on vacation.
• Americans wish the U.S. would follow Europe's suit regarding paid time off, with 44 percent of survey respondents believing the government should mandate companies to offer at least four weeks of vacation per year.
• Nearly half (47 percent) of survey respondents are getting summer travel ideas through social media platforms such as Facebook and Pinterest.
• 54 percent of consumers said they would attend the Summer Olympics in London this year if money were no object.
• The majority of consumers plan to travel domestically (81 percent), but more consumers are planning to travel internationally this year (19 percent vs. 11 percent in 2011).