Gunning Daily News

Question of the Day

January 5, 2012 4:32 pm

Q: What contingencies should appear in the offer?

A: When you look to purchase a home, anticipate potential problems. But protect against them so that if something does go wrong, you can cancel the contract without penalty. This is what contingencies allow you to do. They should be included in any offer you present to buy a home.

Hot Trends: Wall-Mounted Home Heating

January 4, 2012 5:24 pm

As cold creeps in across the nation, everyone is looking for the most efficient and effective way to keep warm. With that in mind, I went looking to see what the latest trends are firing up the home heating marketplace.

Enter Mark J McCourt, founder and president of eheat, Inc. ( of Houston, Texas, an online distributor of wall-mounted electric panel heaters and associated accessories. One of the company's latest developments is the "envi"— an electric, wall-mounted, fanless, 100 percent pure convection panel space heater that McCourt says is more efficient, from a convection basis, than many of his competitors.

McCourt says unlike a central heating system and portable fan heaters using forced convection heat, envi wall-mounted heaters create a natural circulation of warm air within a room. And they are mounted flush to the wall with an air gap built into the heater.

Cold air is then drawn (inducted) into the air gap inside the heater where it flows through dual heating stacks, causing rapid heating of air as it rises out. It is this unique "stack convection" technology that allows the envi to be more efficient, effective and safer than radiator, fan, ceramic, gas, oil filled, baseboard and other types of heaters.

The newest line of envis are 100 percent pure convection heaters with 50 Watts more power than older models, enabling it to heat a larger area more quickly. And the envi features a built in temperature sensing thermostat and a sleep-friendly auto-dimmer function for the on/off power light.

The envi heater has no exposed elements and operates at a safe surface temperature of approximately 90°F. Plus, envi wall-mounted heaters eliminate the usual problems connected with allergy sufferers and dust disturbances because they do not use a fan.

Additionally, the low wattage of the heater, and its low-temperature heating core, won’t allow the air to dry out. Even sufferers of Dry-Eye-Pain syndrome can experience relief during the heating season by the reduction of dried out air, and airborne particles normally blown about by other heating systems.

eHeat's 475 watt envi heater has been specifically designed to heat an average room measuring 130 - 150 square feet in floor area, to between 68 and 72 degrees, even in the coldest parts of the country. If you thought your home was warm and welcoming now, with the addition of eHeat teachnology, you could be the "envi" of your neighborhood.

Do-It-Yourself Home Projects Save Time and Money

January 4, 2012 5:24 pm

This year, everyone is looking to save on their household budget. But just because you're scaling back, doesn't mean you can't make some improvements around the house.

Use these DIY home improvement and cleanup tips from the experts at Grime Boss to help revamp your home, without spending a fortune:

Repaint the walls
One great way to update your home without having to replace carpeting or furniture is to refresh walls with a fresh coat of paint. Determine the amount of paint needed by using an online calculator.

To save even more, simply update the paint on doors, cabinets and crown molding, rather than the walls. Likewise, you can paint an accent wall along a hallway, or within your kitchen or living room, rather than the entire space.

Replace hardware
If you'd love to renovate, but it's simply not in the budget for this year; make small updates now that you can incorporate into later construction projects. One small trick is to replace the hardware in highly trafficked areas, such as the kitchen or the bathroom. Replace cabinet handles or knobs and drawer pulls. While replacing hardware, make sure to give your door hinges and drawer tracks a good oiling to prevent squeaking.

Give your car a tune-up

When it comes to saving, learning how to maintain your vehicle can go a long way in terms of managing your household budget. Remember, you should change the oil in your car every 3,000 miles or 3 months.

Install shelving in the garage
Who couldn't use extra storage space? For many, additional storage may mean looking beyond the house to the garage. Find a variety of storage solutions that fit within your budget—from finishing rod racks to cabinets and overhead ceiling-mounted shelving—at a variety of retail stores.


Homeowners Unaware of Costly Repair Responsibility

January 4, 2012 5:24 pm

A recent national survey conducted by GfK Roper Custom Research finds that less than 50 percent of homeowners surveyed know that they are responsible for repairs to the water line on their property. Further, the report goes on to state that one-third of all homeowners responding actually assume that their local utility is responsible for the cost of a burst water line between their house and the street, when this is usually not the case.

"One of the challenges of homeownership is that the potential for expensive repairs is always out there," says Tom Rusin, Chief Executive Officer of HomeServe USA. "The fact that homeowners don't know about their responsibilities in these situations serves to make unexpected and expensive repairs harder to handle."

"Emergencies do happen and unfortunately, there's very little someone can do to prevent them," continues Rusin. "But homeowners can be prepared with a service repair plan that helps cover the cost of expensive water service line repairs."

Typically the homeowner is responsible for the water service line from the curb or well casing all the way to the home, connecting to the water heater, sinks, showers and more. Temperature changes, shifting soil or the age of the line can all cause the line to become damaged. Many times this results in a loss of water pressure or a loss of water altogether. In other instances, the effects will not be noticed until there is a spike in the water bill due to an underground leak. Repairing a water service line can cost more than $2,000.


Travel Plans? Save Money on Airfare

January 4, 2012 5:24 pm

Travelers are bombarded with offers, deals and price fluctuations on a day-to-day basis, so to help them navigate the maze and save money, Consumer Reports' experts came up with some helpful tips to cut costs and lock in the best rates.

A Consumer Reports reporter found a roundtrip ticket from Philadelphia to Venice on Alitalia for $247 which seemed like a steal until discovering, just before booking, that taxes ballooned the price to $767. Hidden fees, fine print, and blackout dates can make locking in a low price as tricky as a soft landing in turbulence.

If you plan to travel throughout the New Year, here are five tips to help get the rock bottom rate before take-off.

Check fares early. Most airline and travel sites make it convenient to set up alerts to track fares. Take advantage of the alerts and start searching for flights three and a half months prior to booking domestic flights and five and a half months before booking international flights. That's when the market begins to sort itself out and lower fares begin to appear.

Compare Prices. Airline and third party sites often list identical prices but have different electronic reservation systems which add and remove fares at different times. One system can often trail another by up to five hours. Be sure to check the airline's own site, which can be cheaper because there is no commission.

Look beyond discount airlines. Discount airlines aren't always the cheapest. Airlines cannot afford to be more expensive than their competitors for comparable flights at comparable times.

Be wary of when you buy. The greatest number of cheap seats are available on Tuesdays at 3:00 p.m., most sales begin on Monday at 8:00 p.m. and end on Thursday at 8:00 p.m. Be mindful of booking weekend flights because those are popular with both business travelers and vacationers.

Consider a connecting flight and don't delay. Connecting flights can be substantially cheaper than flights that are non-stop, especially for international travel. If you delay booking your flight within seven to fourteen days of travel, chances are you will pay a premium. Airlines would rather leave a seat empty than sell tickets at a steep discounted rate.


Word of the Day

January 4, 2012 5:24 pm

Subdivision. A tract of land divided by the owner into smaller lots for homesites or other use.

Question of the Day

January 4, 2012 5:24 pm

Q: When buying a home, what are some negotiating tips?

A: Know the seller's motivation to sell. This will enhance your negotiating position. Sellers who must move quickly due to a job transfer, divorce, or contract on another home, are more inclined to accept a lower price to speed the process along.

Remember, too, that the listing, or asking, price is what the seller would like to receive for the home. It is not necessarily what the seller will settle for. So know value. Before you make an offer, check recent sales and listing prices of comparable neighborhood homes and compare them to the seller's asking price.

Other tips:
• Be flexible. Never say, “take it or leave it.” That can sour negotiations and ruin the deal.
• Never show your hand or reveal your next step.
• Each time you increase your offering price, ask for something in return, such as repairs, appliances, even lawn furniture.
• If you plan to pay cash or have a tentative commitment for a loan, use your strong financial position as a negotiating tool.
• Don’t let emotions such as pride, fear, love, and anger get in the way of negotiating the best deal. Leave irrational feelings at home.

5 Ways to Cut Energy Costs at Home

January 3, 2012 5:38 pm

EnergyStar, a division of the Environmental Protection Agency, reports the average family spends $2,200 annually on energy costs. But, says the agency, which is charged with helping consumers keep energy costs down, most families can save about $700 a year—nearly a third of the annual outlay—without sacrificing comfort.

Here are five ways you can cut costs without significantly changing your lifestyle:
• Heating and air conditioning – These systems alone account for some 46 percent of your energy bill. To save big bucks, install a programmable thermostat, change air filters monthly, and seal off heating and cooling ducts that go to little-used areas of your home—such as attics, crawlspaces, and spare, infrequently used bedrooms.
• Lighting – You can save up to 12 percent of your energy costs simply by replacing five incandescent light bulbs with energy-saving fluorescents.
• Water heaters – Setting your water heater to 120 degrees Fahrenheit can shave as much as $60 per year off your energy bill. Many water heaters are routinely—and unnecessarily—set to 140 degrees.
• Major appliances – Energy costs for running the refrigerator, washer and dryer account for only about 12 percent of your annual bill. You can save a little of that by keeping the filters clean and using cold water only for some wash loads. But newer models are more energy-efficient, and older appliances can be money-suckers. Replacing larger appliances that are more than 10-15 years old can save you money in the long run.
• Small electronics – All appliances use energy when they are plugged in. Turn off the TV, computer and DVD when not in use. Unplug the toaster and coffeemaker after they’ve done their morning duty. Unplug video game consoles when not in use—and use the stand-by mode sparingly.

In Demand: Smaller Homes for Efficiency and Ease

January 3, 2012 5:38 pm

Last year, your RIS Consumer Confidant wrote about an anticipated glut of so-called McMansions, or giant 5,000-plus-square-foot homes that were a major by-product of the mid- to late-1990s housing boom. So it was interesting to run across a recent post from Vanessa Pereira, an Interior Design Consultant at Mid-Atlantic Builders Rockville, MD ( about trending home sizes.

Pereira reports that recent national surveys along with 2010 census data confirm there are rapid changes happening throughout the nation, with many homebuyers opting for smaller, more efficient and easy to maintain homes.

She says that architectural footprints of new homes are shrinking, and builders are squeezing the most out of every inch of usable square footage.

That means two-story spaces are now viewed as wasted areas, an open family room can be used for an extra bedroom, and two-story foyers are now being used for extra closet space. In fact, Pereira says that more than half of the buyers she helps end up customizing floor plans using open spaces to create a bigger master bedrooms, more storage spaces or extra bathrooms.

Speaking of extra bathrooms, Pereira says the days of those big Jacuzzi tubs are over. Today, many builders are opting for bigger showers with “spa-like” features.

Although many buyers are hanging onto their Jacuzzi tubs for reasons such as perceived resale value, fewer and fewer buyers are spending the extra money to add massage jets to the tubs, according to Pereira. Younger buyers are now opting for more lifestyle-related options such as body jets, rain showerheads and steam showers.

Even the formal living and dining areas are being replaced by or converted to big, open family rooms.
Pereira says keeping with the trend of functionality, homebuyers now understand that they spend most of their time in their kitchen and family room. So most buyers want to use the living room for other purposes, such as a guest area or other multifunctional area, and keep their kitchen open to the family room.

Warm Winter Creates Danger on the Ice

January 3, 2012 5:38 pm

Winter has barely started, yet already more than 10 incidents involving falls through ice, several of them fatal, have been reported in the news media. Experts blame unseasonably warm temperatures and alternate freezing and thawing for the dangerous conditions.

"We urge everyone to stay off all frozen bodies of water," says Kim Burgess, executive director of the National Drowning Prevention Alliance. "The perceived recreational benefit is simply not worth the risk to yourself or your loved ones."

"It's also important to prevent pets from roaming onto ice," adds NDPA Board Member Gerald M. Dworkin, an aquatics safety and water rescue consultant at Lifesaving Resources LLC. "More than half of ice emergency 911 calls are triggered by people trying to save a pet who fell through ice. Never attempt to rescue an animal yourself, but rather, call 911."

"Ice seldom freezes uniformly," explains Dworkin. "It will be thinner when it has formed over moving water, and where it surrounds partially submerged objects." He adds that snow-covered ice, and ice that has thawed and refrozen is not as strong as new, clear, hard ice.

Dworkin offers the following self-rescue and response tips:

If you fall through ice:
• Don't try to climb out immediately. Instead, kick to get horizontal in the water with your legs behind your torso. Then, try to pull yourself forward onto solid ice.
• Once out of the water, roll away and avoid standing until you are several body lengths away from the ice break.
• A set of ice picks is an ideal safety tool for rescuers and victims alike. When the ice pick is jammed on the ice, the retractable sheath exposes the pick. This allows a rescuer to crawl out to the victim, or gives a victim the opportunity to crawl his way out of the ice hole.

When trying to rescue a person who has fallen through ice:
• Call, or have someone call 911 first.
• Try to improvise a buoyant throwing assist, such as an empty jug with a line attached.
• If going onto ice to reach a victim is unavoidable, use a device to distribute the rescuer's weight over a wide area.
• Use a reaching assist to prevent the rescuer from being dragged into the water by the victim.

"All first responders should be trained and equipped for ice rescue," says Dworkin. "Ice rescue suits, ice picks, water rescue rope, and an animal control stick are the minimum equipment needed."

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