Summer is here, and with the season comes plenty of time outside in the yard. When the weather is pleasant, you want to be able to enjoy a beautifully maintained outdoor room, but nature's elements and natural growth can leave your yard looking overgrown or old. There are, however, a few things that you can do to maintain your outdoor space on a weekly and daily basis to help keep it looking fresh and inviting.
More than likely, you'll need to mow your lawn at least once or twice per week, according to this source. When you mow your lawn, make sure that you double check the height of your blades so that you avoid scalping your grass. Also, be careful around smaller plants in the landscaping. It's easy to mow over a seedling if it's just starting to sprout. Usually, you should mow grass about 2-3 inches high. This lets you stimulate growth by cutting it back without taking so much of the top off that the roots aren't protected. For small plants and seedlings, put wire fences around them so that you don't accidentally cut them down with an edge trimmer.
Beware of Sun Damage
Rays from the sun can do a lot of damage to almost every piece of metal and plastic that you have outside. After a few years, you will likely begin to notice that your patio furniture is a lighter color than it was even a couple of seasons previously. One of the simplest solutions is to use patio furniture covers. According to this source, protecting property, such as patio furniture, is dependent somewhat on climate, but in general, lightweight covers do best. That way, whenever you're not using you're furniture, you can easily put the covers on to protect furniture from the sun and storms.
WoodStaining wooden decks and furniture is the type of job that most people try their best to put off because it can be labor intensive. It can take some time to sand and apply protectant to the wood, but it looks great when it's finished. A coat of paint or sealer can also prevent wood from warping, helping you protect your property for years longer. There's even a simple test to know when to apply a new coat of stain or sealant. According to this source, you should just drop some water on the boards to see if it beads up. If it doesn't, the wood needs some TLC.
When you're looking for a few ways to make sure that your outdoor space always looks its best, there are a few simple techniques that can make a great impact. More than likely, you're already doing some of them, but you might need to tweak them to get the best results.
If you’re redoing your outdoor space, why not update your indoor space while you’re at it? Take a look at these tips for taking the headache out of a remodel!
A home that operates efficiently isn’t just better for the environment. Ensuring your home systems are as efficient as possible can also help reduce the financial burden of maintaining your home throughout the year. These tips can serve as areas of focus for lowering your energy bills and lessening your appliances’ negative impact on the environment.
Energy Savers that Make ‘Cents’
(Family Features) A home that operates efficiently isn’t just better for the environment. Ensuring your home systems are as efficient as possible can also help reduce the financial burden of maintaining your home throughout the year.
These tips from Gary White with JCPenney Home Services can serve as areas of focus for lowering your energy bills and lessening your appliances’ negative impact on the environment.
The cost of heating water for bathing, laundry and kitchen use is a common home energy drain, so it’s an area that deserves attention when you’re looking to upgrade for efficiency. To reduce energy use from your hot water heater, try taking shorter showers and switching to cold water for some washing machine wash and rinse cycles. Other options include turning down the thermostat on your heater, adding insulation or purchasing a newer, more efficient model.
Heating and Cooling
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, as much as 40 percent of a home’s energy expenses come from the heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system, also known as the heating and cooling system. Like appliances and other mechanical features of your home, over time, the heating and cooling system becomes less efficient. Regular seasonal service like appropriately changing out the air filter can help ensure your system performs at its best, but once its life expectancy has passed, a new unit is usually the more cost-effective solution in the long run.
Understanding your options is important because these systems represent a meaningful investment. There are a lot of potentially overwhelming options and you want to be sure you get the right system for your home. A consultation with an expert, such as those you can find at JCPenney Home Services, can help you determine the proper size and functions necessary to effectively manage your home’s climate, as well as assist in exploring the latest technologies and products. For example, heat pumps, which were once reserved for more moderate climates, are now a cost-efficient solution for homes where temperatures dip lower.
Another option that is relatively new but growing in popularity is known as a mini-split system. These systems let you customize the temperature settings in various spaces, enhancing personal comfort and allowing you to focus your energy use on the parts of your home that need it most. Learn more about these and other energy-efficient heating and cooling solutions at jcpenneyhomeservices.com.
While servicing or replacing an HVAC system may be the obvious change when it comes to conserving energy, you can also see reductions by using an upgraded thermostat, such as a “smart” or connected model. These devices can help you monitor the temperature setting in your home while maximizing efficiency. For example, a connected thermostat that’s synced to your smartphone may allow you to adjust temperature settings when away from home. This way, if you forget to bump the air conditioner up a few degrees while you’re gone more than a few hours, you can log-in remotely and set an appropriate temperature.
A great deal of energy is lost through cracks, holes and faulty seals. Take time to assess all windows, doors and openings for air leaks, adding caulking or weather stripping where needed. Don’t overlook culprits like openings around lighting and plumbing fixtures, switch plates and other electrical elements. Also assess potential losses from the fireplace, attic, garage and crawl spaces, where it’s common that less attention is given to thorough sealing, and determine whether additional insulation can help contain energy.
Take Control of Your Climate
Managing your home’s climate control is typically no small task or small expense. These options offer flexibility and efficiency.
Heat pumps pull from the ground or outside air temperature to both heat your home in the winter and cool it in the summer. Since heat pumps move heat instead of generating it, they’re energy-efficient year-round.
Hybrid systems or combination systems combine elements of both a furnace and heat pump. The more efficient heat pump runs until the outside air temperature falls below a certain level, at which point the system automatically switches the heat source to the furnace. This option is more expensive up front, but can generate significant savings in terms of monthly utility bills long-term.
Ductless systems are a flexible, efficient choice for homeowners looking for simple solutions. These systems can be easily mounted on the wall or ceiling, and don’t require ductwork, making them ideal for a converted attic space or room addition.
Understanding HVAC Efficiency Ratings
An HVAC system can be rated in a number of different ways. While some of these ratings may be confusing, it is helpful to understand what they mean.
AFUE: An Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency (AFUE) rating is important if you are purchasing an oil or gas furnace. The AFUE rating measures the amount of fuel used to heat your home against the amount of fuel wasted. A higher rating indicates a more efficient system. The more efficient your system, the less fuel it takes to heat your home, which translates into lower heating bills during the winter.
SEER: The higher the Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER), the more efficient your system and the less it will cost to heat and cool your home. Federal regulations require all new HVAC systems to have a SEER rating of 13 or higher.
HSPF: The Heating Seasonal Performance Factor (HSPF) measures the efficiency of a heat pump when it is used to heat a home. A higher rating indicates greater efficiency and greater monthly savings on energy bills. New HVAC units are required to have a rating of 7.7 or higher.
Photo courtesy of Getty Images (Large house)SOURCE:
JCPenney Home Services
When it comes to storms and hurricanes, you can never be too prepared. To keep your family safe, it’s important to prepare for the worst because once a hurricane or storm hits, action must be taken quickly.
Be Prepared for Inclement Weather
(Family Features) When it comes to storms and hurricanes, you can never be too prepared. To keep your family safe, it’s important to prepare for the worst because once a hurricane or storm hits, action must be taken quickly.
In the case of a power outage, a common side effect of natural disasters, one of the best pieces of equipment to have on hand is a portable generator. Portable generators can provide the power needed to access important radio or television weather updates, lights, hot water and refrigeration for safe food storage, among other necessities. After a storm, it is difficult to predict when power will be restored, so it’s best to be prepared with a backup power source.
When used properly, portable generators can save lives, but there are some risks that come along with using them. Safe use is critical to avoid dangerous carbon monoxide which you cannot see, taste or smell.
The Portable Generator Manufacturers’ Association recommends taking time to reacquaint yourself with your generator’s features and safe operating instructions, as well as keeping these safety tips in mind:
Now is the perfect time to educate yourself and your family on the safe and proper use of portable generators in preparation for major storms and natural disasters. Learn more about safely operating a portable generator during severe weather at takeyourgeneratoroutside.com or pgmaonline.com.
Photo courtesy of Getty ImagesSOURCE:
Portable Generator Manufacturers’ Association
(BPT) - Researchers predict that rising water prices could mean within five years a third of American households will not be able to pay their water bills, despite the replenishment of water reserves around the country.
What's more, the National Weather Service warns that drought could increase or reoccur if the country experiences a period of sustained heat and dryness.
Fortunately, there are many ways for you to reduce the amount of water your home uses each year. One of the best places to start conserving water is in the bathroom, where toilet flushing, long showers and deep soak baths account for the largest portion of a home’s water consumption, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.
Here are simple ways you can significantly reduce your home’s water consumption, lower your water bill and do something good for the environment:
Ditch water-guzzling fixtures
Flushing the toilet accounts for about 30 percent of a home’s annual water consumption, making it the largest user of water in the home, according to the U.S. EPA. Prior to 1994, most toilets used 3.5 or more gallons of water per flush (gpf). Current federal guidelines require that toilets use no more than 1.6 gpf, but you can do even better.
* Toilets: Replace dated, older toilets with ultra-high-efficiency models like the American Standard H2Optimum ultra-high efficiency toilet, which uses an average of 1.1 gpf — that's 31 percent less than federal mandates. Exclusive PowerWash siphon-jet bowl cleaning technology drives this water-saving toilet to remove every trace of paper and waste, while its EverClean antimicrobial finish helps it stay cleaner, longer.
* Faucets: Inefficient and leaky bathroom faucets also waste thousands of gallons of water each year. WaterSense-labeled faucets use a maximum of 1.5 gallons per minute (gpm) and as little as 1.2 gpm, decreasing water use by 30 percent or more. The Fluent collection of high-efficiency bathroom faucets uses leading-edge technology to reduce water consumption, while producing a strong flow rate, all with high-style design to coordinate with various bathroom decors.
* Showerheads: A significant source of water usage in a home can be attributed to showerheads, pouring up to 40 gallons per day down the drain for an average family, according to the EPA. Since showers account for 17 percent of a home’s water use, replacing an older, less efficient showerhead with a WaterSense-certified one can curb waste in the shower. An example is the Hydrofocus 6-function showerhead that uses only 2 gallons of water per minute, while delivering a concentrated and invigorating spray. Its innovative pressure-compensating operation features a plentiful water flow across all spray patterns for a customized showering experience that caters to your family's personal preferences.
Make easy habit changes
Replacing inefficient fixtures is an investment that will pay off over time. However, there are simple habit changes that are free and will produce results right away. Your family can easily reduce water use in the bathroom by:
* Turning off the water when brushing their teeth. Running the tap while brushing can waste as much as 3,000 gallons per year, the EPA says.
* Taking showers instead of baths. It takes an average of 36 gallons to fill the bathtub. Plus, if you take baths less often, when you do indulge in one it will feel like a treat.
* Taking shorter showers. The longer the shower runs, the more water goes down the drain. Never turn on the shower and walk away to do other things while the water warms. If you get delayed or distracted, the water could run for a long time before you actually step into the shower.
* Washing hands in cold water with soap, rather than letting the water run until it gets hot.
* Shaving at the sink, rather than in the shower. Shaving in the shower extends your shower time, unnecessarily consuming more water. Just don’t forget to turn off the water while shaving at the bathroom sink.
Taking steps to reduce bathroom water usage can help save you money in the short term and benefit the environment in the long run. These changes are simple to implement, with rewarding results to both your wallet and our planet Earth.
(BPT) - Demand remains high for energy-efficient, eco-friendly home features, according to a survey by the National Association of Home Builders. In fact, the majority of builders now put energy-efficient windows, heating and cooling systems, thermostats and appliances in their construction, the survey says. If you're selling your home and hope to compete with new construction - as well as set your house apart from other resales - making green improvements could significantly pay off.
"Updating your home with green features can attract more buyers and even increase your home's sale price," says Geoff Lewis, president of RE/MAX, LLC. "Buyers are not only looking for cosmetic upgrades, they also want improvements that will help save them money for as long as they live in the home."
Some green projects you can easily accomplish yourself, like replacing less efficient light bulbs with compact fluorescent light bulbs or LEDs throughout the house, or installing a programmable thermostat. Other improvements may require professional expertise but can result in even bigger payoffs.
Here are five popular green home improvements that could help boost your home's resale value, and save you money until you're ready to sell:
* Windows: Replacing older windows with ENERGY STAR-rated high-efficiency windows could lower your annual energy bill as much as 12 percent, according to the United States Department of Energy. What's more, ENERGY STAR-rated windows may qualify for a tax credit of 10 percent off the cost of the windows.
* Insulation: Most homes in the U.S. don't have enough insulation, according to energystar.gov. Adding insulation and sealing air leaks could reduce annual energy bills by 10 percent. At the time of resale, adding fiberglass insulation in the attic could recoup 107 percent of the cost, according to Remodeling Magazine's Cost vs. Value report.
*Front door: It's a key part of your home's curb appeal and the last exterior feature homebuyers see before entering your house. However, a front door needs to do more than look good. Replacing an older, wooden door with an energy-efficient, secure steel door recoups more than 90 percent of its cost when you sell your home, according to the Cost vs. Value report.
*Landscaping: With warm weather approaching, it's a great time to think about landscaping that has green value as well as cosmetic appeal. Adding trees in addition to flowers can provide shade that will help keep the home's interior cooler in summer months. In fact, according to the National Association of Landscape professionals, planting five shade trees can return up to 100 percent of the project cost when you sell your home.
*Water: Most water heaters last about 10 years, so if your home is older, a new water heater could be a big selling point. A tankless water heater could be even more appealing; because they only heat water when it's needed, rather than consume energy to hold gallons of water at a set temperature for hours, tankless water heaters use far less energy. ENERGY STAR says a tankless water heater could save you up to $1,800 over its usable life - which is twice as long as the lifespan of traditional tank water heaters.
When you're thinking of selling your home, you'll probably invest a lot of time and energy into staging. Consider saving some additional budget for energy-efficient home improvements that may help boost your home's value. A knowledgeable real estate agent can advise you on which green home improvements can get you the biggest return on investment. Visit www.remax.com to find a real estate agent near you.
(NewsUSA) - As energy costs rise, the "green" movement and conservation efforts have become popular topics. Energy-saving recommendations appear daily in the media, and consumers are being offered subsidies or state and federal tax credits to encourage the purchase of more efficient appliances. However, many homeowners fail to consider their water heater when it comes to going "green."
Although today's water heaters are expected to operate for an average of 13 years, the U.S. Department of Energy recommends shopping for a new water heater if your current unit is more than seven years old. This allows an adequate amount of time for homeowners to research and select a water heater that best meets their needs instead of waiting until their heater breaks down and selecting the cheapest quick fix for cold showers.
Consumers are increasingly turning to high-efficiency water heaters when replacing older units or during remodeling and building projects. While these models may cost more initially, savings in water and energy usage continue throughout the lifetime of the appliance, offsetting the price difference. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reports that these units use 10 to 50 percent less energy, benefits to both your budget and the environment.
A recent study by the Gas Technology Institute simulated the residential performance of high-efficiency water heaters and conventional units. The Vertex from A. O. Smith, a hybrid, gas-condensing, residential unit incorporating tank-type and tankless technology, provided the best overall performance at average and high-volume hot water usage, which is the consumption of 64-gallons or more per day of hot water.
Endorsed by long-time environmental champion Ed Begley Jr. of the HGTV series "Living With Ed," the Vertex provides sufficient quantities of hot water for shower after shower and operates at 90 percent thermal efficiency. Additionally, it is designed to meet the demands that modern lifestyles require.
"Using more efficient combustion to produce hot water at lower operating costs and 90 percent thermal efficiency, the Vertex is a good choice for customers who want to save energy without skimping on hot water," said David Chisolm, A. O. Smith Water Heater brand manager.
For more information on the A. O. Smith Vertex model, visit hotwater.com/resources/energy-star-qualified-products/.
Having your home severely damaged by a storm can turn your world upside down. Often, foremost among your concerns will be your roof, as it is protects the rest of your home and possessions. Take action on your post-storm repair process with these tips.
Tips for Tackling Storm-Related Roof Damage
(Family Features) Having your home severely damaged by a storm can turn your world upside down. The damage could simply be cosmetic, or so extensive as to render your home uninhabitable. In either case, you need to act fast, but smart, to ensure that your home will be properly repaired.
Often, foremost among your concerns will be your roof, as it is protects the rest of your home and possessions. Start your post-storm repair process with these tips from the experts at CertainTeed Roofing.
Find more tips to help guide your roof repair, and find qualified installers in your area, at CertainTeed.com.
(BPT) - From annoying itchy welts to serious conditions like Malaria and West Nile virus, mosquitoes have been making humans miserable and sick for thousands of years. And now, there's Zika - a mosquito-spread virus that may be linked to serious birth defects. In fact, according to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, the diseases mosquitoes spread make them the deadliest animal on the planet.
The arrival of warm weather means it's time to step up your mosquito prevention and protection efforts in order to help protect your family. The National Pest Management Association offers some information that can help:
* The type of mosquito that transmits Zika bites during the daytime hours. Most other types of mosquitoes bite during dusk and dawn.
* Within the U.S., mosquitoes have been known to spread West Nile virus, Chikungunya, and encephalitis-causing viruses in humans, and heartworms in dogs.
* Mosquitoes spread disease when they bite one person, fly to another and bite again, spreading the infection. What many people don't realize is that the saliva from the mosquito's bite causes the red, itchy irritation that we all know so well.
The NPMA recommends some ways you can help reduce your exposure to mosquitoes:
* Eliminate breeding areas - Mosquitoes need only about a half-inch of standing water in which to lay their eggs. Get rid of any stagnant water around your home, such as flower pots, bird baths, kiddie pools and standing water in low areas of your yard.
* Use repellent - Whenever you spend time outside, protect your skin from mosquito bites by applying an insect repellent that contains at least 20 percent DEET, picaridin or oil of lemon-eucalyptus. Also, consider wearing long pants, long-sleeved shirts and closed-toe shoes.
* Be aware of the time of day - Mosquitoes are most active around dawn and dusk, although the variety that transmits Zika prefers to bite during the day. Minimize outside activity during peak biting hours, or, if you must be outside, wear long sleeves, pants and repellent to thwart mosquitoes.
* Watch what you wear - Dark colors, floral prints and sweet-smelling perfumes or colognes can attract mosquitoes to you. Wear light colors and forego perfume when spending time outside.
* Protect your house - Screens help keep mosquitoes out of your house. Be sure all windows and doors are outfitted with screens, and that all are in good shape. Repair tears to keep mosquitoes from getting inside.
* Travel wisely - Mosquito-borne diseases that may be rare in the U.S. are common in many foreign countries, so if your summer vacation will take you outside the country, check what travel advisories may be in effect in your destination. If someone gets sick upon returning home, seek medical care immediately.
Sometimes, despite your best efforts at control, mosquitoes on your property can still be a problem. A licensed pest control professional can help you manage mosquitoes. To find a professional near you, visit the NPMA's website at pestworld.org.
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