Gunning Daily News
October 27, 2011 5:08 pm
It's an unfortunate part of homeownership—things break down. Heating and cooling systems have limited lifespans and can cost thousands to replace. Home appliances go on the fritz or the plumbing system shuts down, and before you know it, you've had hundreds of dollars worth of unexpected repairs to deal with.
One thing that can help with unexpected costly repairs is preventive maintenance. In fact, think of it as giving new meaning to the phrase "home health."
Just like your annual physical, preventative maintenance can play a critical role in keeping your home's systems and appliances running smoothly and efficiently. Most homeowners are aware of the basics, like regularly changing the air filters on their heating and cooling systems, checking for leaky faucets, and so on. However, the to-do list of preventative maintenance tasks can get long, and not everyone has the time or experience to do it all themselves.
Unfortunately, without a professional preventative maintenance program, most home systems and appliances never get a thorough check-up, leaving them vulnerable to costly—and often avoidable—problems.
A professional preventative maintenance program can be a homeowner's most important ally when it comes to the upkeep of their heating and cooling system, plumbing, electrical system, and most major appliances. Quality service providers take a comprehensive approach to preventative maintenance, and are trained to look for early signs of wear and tear, perform recommended maintenance, and record the condition of your appliances and home systems so any repairs and/or replacements can be made before they lead to an unexpected breakdown.
Along with the convenience and confidence of regularly scheduled check-ups, homeowners can also realize other benefits, too, such as reduced energy costs, improved system reliability and lower repair costs over the life of their covered items.
"Preventative maintenance is an investment in the health and well-being of your home's systems and appliances," says Matt Wendl, director of American Home Shield's new preventative maintenance service, which the company recently launched in 45 markets across the nation. "Early detection of problems can help eliminate the need for more costly repairs."
Wendl offered the following tips for homeowners considering a preventative maintenance plan:
• Get a detailed, written list of all items to be inspected, and how frequently they will be inspected.
• Be sure they are doing a visual inspection, as well as testing how key components of your systems or appliances operate.
• Confirm costs up front for any needed repairs. Some providers offer discounts off their regular rates for repairs.
• Contactors should be licensed, bonded and pass a criminal background check.
To learn more about preventive maintenance and taking care of your home, visit www.AHSpm.com.
October 27, 2011 5:08 pm
According to a recent study from the U.S. Fire Administration, residential clothes dryer fires were associated with 12,700 fires nationally, resulting in 15 deaths and 300 injuries annually. Clothes dryers may seem harmless, but failure to provide proper maintenance can have deadly results. Avoiding a dangerous situation is actually pretty easy in most cases, just think air flow.
"A significant build-up of lint can block the flow of air, which can result in excessive heat which can result in fires," says Kurt Dettmer, vice president of marketing for Fremont Insurance. "Failure to complete simple maintenance such as minor cleaning is the leading contributing factor for clothes dryer fires in homes."
Here are some simple steps you can take to avoid creating a dangerous situation.
• Clean the lint screen and compartment and brush off any remaining lint every time you use your dryer
• If you use fabric softener or any product to reduce static electricity, wash the screen in warm soapy water periodically to eliminate film buildup that restricts air flow
• Inspect the screen for even lint distribution and tears, and replace immediately to prevent overheating or lint passing into the duct and restricting air flow
• Do not open the lint panel while the tumbler is in operation
• Inspect the duct, dampers, and access covers for damage
• Clean all removable parts and make sure they operate freely
• Vacuum the duct to remove excess lint buildup
• On the unit itself, wipe down the blower, drive motor and thermostat
• Check the belt tension and condition and replace if worn or cracked
• Beware vapors that could ignite when heated
• Don't dry items that have been cleaned or soaked in gasoline, dry cleaning solvents, vegetable or cooking oil, machine oil or anything containing wax or chemicals such as mop heads and cleaning clothes or any flammable or explosive substances
• Do not operate your dryer if it is smoking, grinding or has missing or broken parts
• Disconnect electrical power or close the gas shut-off valve
• Disconnect electrical power or close the gas shut-off valve as applicable before servicing
• Never bypass any safety devices
For more information, visit www.fmic.com
October 27, 2011 5:08 pm
When you open your doors for a cocktail party, you want to do it right. It’s natural to want to ‘wow’ and please your guests by setting the right atmosphere, and impressing them with delicious foods and proper drinks. Have you always wanted to host a wine-tasting shindig, but don’t know the first thing about vino? Don’t stress! The following tips will ensure an evening of entertaining success, even for the first-timers out there:
• Get Organized! It's the secret to a successful party. You know, the ones that go off without a hitch and leave everyone buzzing the following day. But where do you start? Grab a notepad and create lists so you are sure to cover the bases: guests, menu, décor, and cocktails. Once you’ve cleared your mind of the essentials, you are free to get creative and start thinking of personal touches you want to sprinkle in to the upcoming event.
• Spin That Track! Decide the music genre appropriate for your guests and prepare a mix of songs on your computer or entertainment system. Make sure to have this set up in advance so during the party you can turn it on, and walk away. You don’t want to spend the whole night changing songs, or you’ll miss out on good conversation.
• Have a little extra time? Make a back up genre that includes dance music, in the event your guests want to start groovin'.
• Get Your Drink On! Come up with one or two fun mixed drinks. Have them mixed and ready to pour into pitchers, so guests can help themselves. Make sure to have a nice selection of white and red wine. The importance of serving and drinking wine at the right temperature is integral to a proper wine experience.
• Let’s Eat! Now that the music is spinning, and drinks are flowing, it’s time to indulge in delectable cuisine. Hors d'oeuvres are usually easiest to make and convenient to eat while socializing over cocktails. Offer five to seven choices with a mix of cold and hot. You don't want the kitchen too hot, nor do you want to be stuck at the stove all night. Be sure to offer a few vegetarian appetizers also, so that there is something for everyone. Scatter bowls of nuts, and other grab-as-you-pass cocktail snacks throughout the entertaining area so that no one leaves hungry.
That’s it! Feeling ready to put on the cocktail party of the year? It’s simple and fun, and if you follow the tips above, your friends are sure to enjoy a night filled with flawless service, memorable atmosphere, and wine that will properly satisfy their palates. Cheers to you!
For more information visit http://ravisolution.com/.
October 27, 2011 5:08 pm
While the holiday season puts many in the spirit to give, it’s also important to do some research before opening your wallet to support charitable causes.
"There are many worthy charitable causes and residents should feel free to contribute to causes with personal meaning, whether a local homeless shelter, food bank, soup kitchen, animal rescue, or an international organization with global outreach," says Pennsylvania Secretary of the Commonwealth Basil L. Merenda. "However, I urge everyone to take the time to understand where their dollars will be going so they can have confidence that their donation will have the biggest benefit and get to the people who need it most."
Before giving to any charitable organization, research how your money will be used. Most charities are legitimate and strive to ensure the majority of dollars go directly into worthwhile projects, but some may misrepresent their cause or spend a high percentage of donations on administrative costs. Be sure that the charity's spending practices match your expectations.
Here are some tips and warnings to help ensure your donation goes to the right place:
1. Never give to a charity you know nothing about.
2. Request written information from the charity about its programs and finances.
3. Do not feel pressured into giving on the spot or allow someone to come to your home to pick up the contribution.
4. Never commit to donate over the phone unless you are familiar with the organization.
5. Never give cash, credit card numbers or bank account numbers. Always write a check payable to the charity so you have a record of your donations.
6. All charities have expenses, so check carefully and understand how your donation will be spent.
7. Consult with a tax advisor to determine whether your contribution is tax deductible. If giving before Dec. 31, charitable donations may be tax deductible for the upcoming tax filing.
October 27, 2011 5:08 pm
Mortgagee. Party or institution that lends money; the creditor.
October 27, 2011 5:08 pm
Q: What is the best way to find a real estate agent?
A: Begin by asking someone that you know. Friends, relatives, co-workers, or neighbors who have recently purchased a home can give you a firsthand account and attest to the agent’s professional abilities. Sometimes an agent you contact will refer you to another one who works more closely with buyers and sellers in your neighborhood. Once you have a list of names, interview at least three agents and ask questions about their community knowledge, professional experience, and commitment – some agents work full time; others only work at nights and on the weekends.
October 26, 2011 5:24 pm
Most teachers give homework for two reasons: to help reinforce the lessons a child is learning in class, and to help foster in the child a sense of responsibility and discipline. As a parent, says the U.S. Department of Education, your job is not to provide answers —even if your child is struggling—but to provide a time, place, and supportive environment in which the child can work to potential.
From Colorado fourth grade teacher Merle Singer, here are six strategies for helping your child get the most out of homework:
• Set the stage – Set aside an area at home where homework is to be done – whether at a desk in the child’s room, or at the breakfast bar before or after dinner. Just be sure it’s a place where the child will not be distracted by noise, TV or too much family activity.
• Provide supplies – Keep a basket of pencils, pens, scissors, paper, crayons or other items the child regularly uses. Time not spent searching for supplies is time that can be spent working.
• Agree on time – Some children do best if they start on their homework right after school. Others do best with an hour or two to relax, have a snack, even shoot a few hoops between school and homework time. Talk with your child to determine his/her wishes, and agree on the best time to do homework. If the first plan doesn’t work so well, don’t hesitate to try a different schedule.
• Adjust activities if necessary – Most children have after-school activities of one kind of another. But if your child cannot stick to a workable homework routine, be prepared to cut or juggle other activities until the homework routine improves.
• Be sure work is completed – Be certain your child is completing daily homework assignments. From time to time, check on longer-term projects, to see if your child is on track to completing them on time.
• Stay in touch with teachers – Attend parent-teacher conferences, and don’t hesitate to contact a teacher anytime if you have concerns about the type or amount of homework, or if you think your child needs extra help.
October 26, 2011 5:24 pm
Home appraisals are a necessary step in the process of selling or refinancing your home. While many homes today aren’t worth as much as they were when they were bought, it is crucial for homeowners to be realistic when it comes to getting their home appraised.
If you are in the process of getting your home ready to be put on the market or interested in refinancing, the experts at Equity Mortgage Lending offer the following things to keep in mind as you prepare for your home appraisal.
• The appraiser will need approximately 30 minutes to one hour to complete the inspection phase of the appraisal process, which includes: exterior photos of the front and rear of the home and a photo of the street in front of the property; measurements of the exterior of the home, garage and any outbuildings; a walk-through inspection of all rooms and levels of the interior of the home including the basement.
• Get organized. Put together achecklist that will help you get ready for your appraisal and get the results you're looking for.
• Be flexible when scheduling the appointment.
• Have a copy of your home’s blueprint to help verify measurements and lot size.
• Provide a list of improvements made to the property since the purchase. Improvements that should be noted include adding a pool, patio, updating your kitchen or bathroom and any room additions, etc.
• Allow your appraiser access to the entire property, including access to any crawl space or attic areas.
• Keep in mind that a clean home makes a good impression. Be sure to trim the lawn, clean the pool and garage, repair cracked windows or torn screens, check for leaky faucets and secure gutters and down spouts before your appraisal.
• Point out any amenities that may not be obvious to the appraiser: sprinkler systems, patios, pools, security systems, built in vacuum, etc.
• Provide a copy of last year's tax assessment information.
• Know what year the house was built and when improvements were made.
• The first thing appraisers look for is comparables, so be prepared and have a list of recent sales of similar properties in the immediate neighborhood.
October 26, 2011 5:24 pm
Whether your budget for the holidays is high or low, you should always try to stay within the limit you set for yourself. If you find you've maxed out this year's gift budget, yet still have people left to check off your gift list, the art of no-expense gifting may be your best option.
Money Management International (MMI) offers insight into the art of no-expense gifting with three ideas that won't put you over your holiday budget.
Give free printable gift certificates. Great gifts don't have to cost a lot of money. Free printable holiday gift certificates allow you to offer an experience or an act of service while still giving the recipient a wrapped gift. Free printable gift certificates are actually great to give all year long.
Give homemade treats. Give your loved ones a heartwarming treat from the oven. Bake homemade sweet bread, gingerbread cookies, or mini raspberry cupcakes. Deliver the treats in festive containers. Your family and friends will be pleasantly surprised with the edible delights. For recipe ideas, download the free Cheap Eats eBook.
Give a regift. A regift is a gift you've received that you pass along to someone else. While there are some cringe-worthy regifting tales, there are also some heartwarming regifting stories. Visit Regiftable.com for ideas and stories that will help you select an appropriate regift that the recipient will appreciate.
While some might argue that no-expense gift gifting is cheap, Cate Williams, vice president of Financial Literacy at MMI, disagrees. "No-expense gifting is really about giving a gift the recipient will value and appreciate," she says. "While not spending money on a gift is frugal, the thought and consideration the gift-giver puts into giving a gift the recipient will appreciate keeps the gift from being cheap."
October 26, 2011 5:24 pm
Last winter, snow covered the ground in all 50 states and an equally menacing winter may be approaching again this season. Cooper Tire & Rubber recommends drivers not only install winter tires before the first storm hits, but also use the changing seasons as a reminder to engage in routine tire maintenance.
"In areas that typically experience harsh winters, drivers should consider replacing their all-season tires with a product made specifically for that severe climate," says Chuck Yurkovich, vice president of global technology for Cooper Tire. "The key is to have those discussions with a trusted dealer before the first storm hits. Even if an area does not typically receive harsh winter weather, it's important to conduct routine tire maintenance checks as the seasons change."
The compound is formulated to respond with higher levels of grip in ice, slush and other winter conditions.
In addition to properly equipping vehicles with winter tires, Cooper Tire advises drivers to follow basic winter driving and tire maintenance tips:
Drive cautiously: Experts say the best advice for driving in harsh winter weather is to not drive at all; but driving – even in ice or snow – is an everyday part of life for the owners of more than 250 million vehicles on the road in the U.S.*
• Double the distance when braking anytime conditions are not dry. It will take longer to come to a stop in snowy or icy conditions.
• Do not assume a four-wheel drive vehicle will stop faster than a two-wheel drive vehicle – four-wheel drive offers no braking advantage.
• Always reduce speed during winter conditions.
• When purchasing winter tires, replace all four tires. Due to the different grip capabilities of summer, all season and winter tires, the driver will not get all of the handling and traction benefits if all tires are not replaced.
• Drivers should keep in mind that it is best to check their owner's manual to see how their vehicle should be serviced in cold weather.
Examine tread: The only part of a vehicle to touch the road is the tires, and tire tread is a vital part of handling, cornering, accelerating and braking.
• For winter weather driving, a general rule is the more tread depth, the better. Tire tread depth should be more than 2/32 of an inch deep all around the tire. Drivers can check tread depth by using a U.S. penny. Insert the edge of the coin into the tread with Lincoln going in headfirst. If the top of Lincoln's head is covered by tread that means there is at least a minimum acceptable amount of tread; if the top of his head is visible at any location on the tire, the tire is worn out and it's time to replace it.
• While examining the tread, also look for signs of uneven wear or damage such as cuts, cracks, splits, punctures and bulges. These conditions shorten the life of tires and, if not corrected, further tire damage or air loss may occur.
Test air pressure: Tire pressure plays a critical role in the overall performance of tires. Under inflation creates excessive stress on the tire, while over inflation can cause uneven wear in addition to handling and braking issues.
• Tire pressure decreases by about one pound per square inch for every 10-degree drop in outside air temperature, so it is vital that drivers check the air pressure regularly as winter weather approaches.
• Drivers should follow the guidelines found in the vehicle owner's manual or tire placard (or sticker) attached to the vehicle door edge to determine the correct air pressure for their vehicle's tires. A common myth is that the tire pressure listed on the sidewall is the optimal pressure, while in reality it is the maximum pressure.
• Air pressure should be checked when the tires are cool, meaning they are not hot from driving even a mile.
• Should any of these checks reveal the need for required maintenance – or when in doubt about the condition of their tires—drivers should take vehicles to a tire dealer for a professional inspection.
For more information on proper tire maintenance, visit www.coopertire.com.