Gunning Daily News

Still Spring Cleaning? Tips to Donate Excess

May 19, 2016 12:55 am

Has your spring cleaning produced an ever-growing pile of usable items? Donate them!

When donating non-cash items, it’s important to be mindful of your chosen charity’s specific needs. According to CharityNavigator.org, remember:

Ask First – Contact the charity first before delivering your donations. Let them know what you have to offer, so that they can decide if your items are needed.

Think Locally – It makes little sense for you (or the charity) to travel long distances to retrieve and haul items—some of which may not even be useful to the charity!

Consider Tax Implications – There are regulations behind deducting non-cash donations. Consult the CharityNavigator.org “Tips for Donors” page to learn more about these tax benefits.

Bear in mind that in many cases, a cash donation is preferable to a non-cash one, especially when responding to natural disasters. Monetary donations give charities the flexibility to spend on what they need, rather than forcing them to use items that may not be ideal.

To mutually benefit, hold a garage or yard sale to convert items to cash first, and then donate the money to the charity directly.

Visit CharityNavigator.org’s advanced search tool to find organizations by mission or close to home. Each charity’s profile page includes contact information, so you can follow up directly with the organization of your choosing.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


5 Pre-Summer Checks for a Well-Insulated Home

May 19, 2016 12:55 am

El Niño’s effect on the U.S. has been mild so far, but it is expected to bring above-average temperatures to many regions this summer—and homeowners should be prepared.

One of the simplest ways to beat the heat at home is with adequate insulation, says Patrick Pitrone, president of USA Insulation.

“Most people associate insulation with keeping things warm,” Pitrone says. “However, it is equally important when it comes to ensuring your family is cool and comfortable in the summer. We've helped customers save thousands of dollars in energy costs, making insulation one of the best investments you'll never see.”

Minimum insulation standards are not as effective as they could be, adds Pitrone. Homeowners should conduct checks in these areas before the heat wave sets in:

Attic – Confirm the insulation in your attic is at least 12 inches thick. Generally, there are 15-20 inches of insulation in a well-insulated home, Pitrone says.

Band Joist – This is the area where the basement ceiling meets the basement wall. Check to see if there is an open cavity or space—there shouldn't be!

Basement – It may not be the most fun to navigate your way through your basement crawl space, but it's important to inspect, says Pitrone.

Ductwork – Make sure there are no holes or areas of exposure in your duct system—this can leak 30 percent of the cool air generated by your A/C.

Walls – Remove a switch plate (or drill a small hole) to determine whether or not there is insulation in the walls. Remember that even if there is insulation, it may be insufficient.

Beyond these checks, consider contacting a professional to do a thorough insulation assessment. He or she can recommend best options for your home’s specific needs.

Source: USA Insulation

Published with permission from RISMedia.


5 Tips to Prevent Electrical Fires

May 18, 2016 12:40 am

Did you know that approximately 50,000 home fires each year start from an electrical source?

That’s according to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), which estimates half of those fires involve cords, plugs or other electrical equipment.

To protect your loved ones and your property, the NFPA advises the following safeguards:

1. Hire a qualified electrician to complete any repairs or replacements to the electrical system in the home.

2. Purchase light bulbs with the same power (wattage) recommended by the manufacturer for fixtures throughout the home.

3. Run cords away from areas in which they can potentially be damaged, such as under doorways or rugs.

4. Consult appliance operator manuals to determine best practices for plugging and unplugging devices. Plug in just one heat-producing device into an outlet at any given time.

5. Insert outlet covers or install childproof outlets, if applicable. Consider, too, having a professional install arc fault circuit interrupters (AFCIs), which cut off electricity in hazardous circumstances.

Source: NFPA

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Tool Tune-Up: 5 Tips for Property Maintenance

May 18, 2016 12:40 am

Can you hear it?

The outdoors are calling!

Get your property in tip-top shape for summer with a power tool tune-up, outlined below by the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute (OPEI):

1. Refresh your memory. Review the equipment manufacturer's guidelines, which likely have not been reviewed since last season. Re-familiarize yourself with operation and safe handling.

2. Inspect the equipment. Examine all brakes, cables and wheels for signs of damage. Make sure no safety features or guards have been disabled or removed. If you find anything concerning, take your equipment to a qualified service representative.

3. Replace the oil. Run the engine for a few minutes to warm up existing oil. Stop the engine, remove the drain plug and empty the old oil. Replace the plug and refill the engine with oil recommended by the manufacturer. Be sure to dispose of the old oil properly.

4. Check the fuel tank. Fuel left in the tank over the winter months must be drained. Fill with fresh fuel that contains 10 percent or less ethanol (“E10” or less), and dispose of the old fuel properly.

5. Clean the machine. Use a wire brush to scrape away any grass clippings or dirt, and replace the filter. Remember to always disconnect the spark plug before working around the underside of a mower.

“You want your outdoor power equipment to be ready when you need it,” says Kris Kiser, president and CEO of the OPEI. “Doing some basic maintenance now will ensure that your equipment operates safely and helps get the job done.”

Source: OPEI

Published with permission from RISMedia.


A "Luxury" Laundry Room? It Can Be Done!

May 18, 2016 12:40 am

(Family Features)—“Luxury” and “laundry room” are two terms rarely found in the same sentence—until now. Laundry rooms are goin’ glam! Get in on the lackluster-to-luxe trend with these tips, fresh from the pros:

Luxe laundry rooms take location into account, so take time to assess your existing space. Could laundry be completed more efficiently if the room were elsewhere? Consider moving the washer and dryer to a walk-in closet, ideally in proximity to the bedrooms, to lend an upscale touch.

Sleek, top-of-the-line appliances scream “luxury,” but today’s models are much more affordable than predecessors. Seek out machines that are not only aesthetically pleasing, but also high-functioning and high-powered, to achieve the luxe look for less.

Set a high-end tone with structure. Spring for durable concrete or quartz countertops atop a wash station, and install a reflective or stone backsplash—both coveted finishes—to reinforce the look.

Brighten up the space—and introduce an unexpected touch of luxury—with an elegant lighting fixture, such as a centerpiece chandelier or coordinating wall sconces.

Incorporate on-trend patterns, like chevron or ombré, in accessories—think curtains or baskets. Go for inexpensive fabrics and finishes that mimic the higher-end look, so that they can be updated effortlessly as fads come and go.

Source: Electrolux

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Senior Safety: 3 Tips to Avoid "Grandparent" Scams

May 17, 2016 12:58 am

Swindlers hoping to make off with someone else’s money often target unwitting seniors in “grandparent” scams. These schemes, according to the American Bankers Association (ABA), victimize thousands of seniors—and their loved ones—each year.

The scenario, the ABA says, starts with the senior receiving a phone call from a purported family member in what appear to be dire circumstances. The pseudo-family member requests that money be sent immediately, often through wire transfer, to rectify the situation.

To avoid falling prey to these tricks, the ABA advises:

Refusing to provide personal information – In general, it is wise not to relay any personal information over the phone. If you suspect a scam, take care not to offer up any indentifying or financial information.

Proceeding with caution – Scammers use sophisticated means, including social media, to obtain personal information about a target’s family or friends. Take precautionary measures, including confirming the call with another family member and/or requesting to call the scammer back, before agreeing to any action.

Asking several questions – The more questions you ask, the less likely a trickster will see the scheme through. Don’t hesitate to ask questions—doing so can even derail the con completely.

Listening to your gut – Let your instincts guide you. If something feels amiss, say no and hang up the phone immediately. Avoid rushing into a decision at all costs.

“Fraudsters have no problem preying on your goodwill to get inside your wallet,” says Corey Carlisle, executive director of the ABA Foundation. “They’re using social media and Internet searches to fabricate convincing stories, so be careful, trust your gut and do your best to confirm who you’re dealing with before sending any money.”

Source: ABA

Published with permission from RISMedia.


How Valuable Is a New Front Door?

May 17, 2016 12:58 am

Some home improvement projects are bankable for the seller—some, unfortunately, are a bust.

A new front door, according to ContractorQuotes.us, is one of the projects that can yield a high return on investment. A steel door, specifically, costs an average of $1,230 to install, but may increase the home’s value by $1,252—a 101.8 percent return.

A fiberglass door, too, may boost a home’s value, by over $2,000 ($2,107, to be exact), while costing an average of $2,926—a 72 percent recoup for the seller.

If you’re planning to replace your front door, keep in mind that some doors require maintenance. Be sure to clarify these requirements before purchasing, ContractorQuotes.us advises.

Remember, also, that the least expensive product is not necessarily worth the savings. The front door is likely the first feature buyers will notice when visiting the home.

It may be tempting to select a style you like personally, but, ContractorQuotes.us suggests choosing a style that is reflective of the exterior of the home. Will it complement the style of the rest of the house?

High-tech security features are also worth considering. A recent report by CEPro.com includes front door technology among its top trends for the home, with the doors themselves holding much promise for integrated home technology.

We'll circle back on this trendy front door tech in a future report.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Cleaning: How Often Is Enough?

May 17, 2016 12:58 am

Spring cleaning, for many, is as habitual—and as universally a pain!—as facing those annual income tax returns. We do it, grudgingly, and are rewarded by the clean, uncluttered space we come home to.

What about cleaning the rest of the year? How often is enough?

Turns out, our homes harbor more bacteria than many a public trash can, the Miami Herald reports.

Just how often do we need to clean—and what?

Refrigerators have much more bacteria in them than most realize. Experts say salad drawers alone contain 750 times what’s considered a “safe” level of bacteria. Make cleaning it a priority!

The microwave may kill bacteria, but heating days-old leftovers can be risky if the walls aren’t splash-free. Once each week, mix half a cup of vinegar with half a cup of water in a heat-safe dish. Microwave on high until the window steams up, then wipe down the interior with a clean cloth or sponge.

Toilets get the bad rap, but a recent study found more infection-causing bacteria in bathtubs. Clean it—along with the toilet—once every week.

Researchers have also found that washing your towel after only three uses removes millions of dead skin cells. Stick to this guideline to ensure cleanliness.

Your bed linens, on the other hand, don’t get as dirty as you think. If you shower in the morning or sleep in the buff, however, make it a point to wash them every one to two weeks.

Mattress and pillow protectors do shield the bed and pillows from dust and grime, but they should still be washed (or even replaced) periodically—every three months is the general rule of thumb.

Don’t neglect your home’s air quality, either. Research shows it can be up to 10 times worse than that of the air outdoors. Have carpets professionally steam-cleaned at least once year, or more often if you own a pet.

Overall, remember: just because you don’t see dirt doesn’t mean it isn’t there. Consistent upkeep throughout the year will keep your home tidy and bacteria at bay.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Study: Home Loan Shopping Takes Backseat to Car Buying

May 16, 2016 12:55 am

House hunters spend a lot of time researching homes—but not many spend time researching home loans.

Recent Zillow survey findings show Americans spend an average of eight hours researching loans, including refinancing, attaining an average of four quotes, versus the average 26 hours spent researching homes themselves.

At nine hours, millennials—likely first-time homebuyers—spend the most time researching loans; baby boomers spend eight hours, and those in Generation X spend seven, according to survey results.

Millennials are more likely to compare mortgage rates than older generations: 85 percent of those included in the survey shopped around for a loan, compared to 75 percent of Generation X shoppers and 55 percent of boomers. They are also more likely to seek out more quotes from lenders—six, on average.

The survey also finds boomers spend the most time researching a home (32 hours) and spend the most time researching major and minor home improvement projects (nine hours and five hours, respectively).

Comparatively, when it comes to researching a car purchase, millennial and Generation X shoppers spend an average of 11 hours, and boomers spend an average of 12 hours—all told, an average three hours less than the average time spent researching a home loan.

For homebuyers and refinancers, it’s important to keep in mind that you may work with the lender of your choosing, though your real estate professional may offer recommendations.

Source: Zillow

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Home on the Market? Tips for a Landscape That Sells

May 16, 2016 12:55 am

Beautifully-appointed outdoor spaces are not just a perk for today’s homebuyers—they’re expected. Landscaping, in particular, can make all the difference in selling price, according to the Appraisal Institute.

Citing two studies, the Institute shares these findings:

• Manicured landscaping can raise a home’s value by as much as 11 percent. (Michigan State University)

• Eighty-five percent of Americans believe landscaping affects the decision to buy a home. (National Association of Landscape Professionals)

While the quality of the lawn is an important consideration, the Institute recommends sellers also give due to flower beds and porches, with an eye for what’s most popular in the neighborhood.

Consider incorporating landscaping that spares the new owner money or time, such as trees or native plantings—features that could potentially increase perceived value, the Institute says. Trees indirectly reduce energy consumption, and native plantings do not require the same scope of care as other species.

Lighting is also important, the Institute advises, because it can enhance a home’s appearance (thereby, perceived value), as well as heighten the safety of the home.

“Just as job seekers shouldn’t show up improperly attired for a job interview, sellers need to ensure their property is as attractive from the outside as possible,” says Appraisal Institute President Scott Robinson. “First impressions matter.”

Source: The Appraisal Institute

Published with permission from RISMedia.