As Winter Takes Hold, Here’s How to Keep Household Expenses in Check

As Winter Takes Hold, Here’s How to Keep Household Expenses in Check

The chill of the winter season has settled in for most parts of the country, and many homeowners will see the unfortunate consequences in their energy bills. Here are some strategies from energy experts for keeping you warm and safe through the winter months, as well as keeping your household budget in line:

  • Start by lowering your thermostat to 68 degrees. It might be a little chillier than you like, but compensate by lighting a fire, adding an extra blanket and throwing on another layer. The difference of just one or two degrees in your thermostat setting makes a significant difference in your heating bill, says Dominion Energy.
  • Seal any air leaks. Chilly air finds its way into your home and warm air leaks out in a variety of obvious and unexpected places, such as entrances, pull-down attic stairs, light fixtures, pipes and outlets.
  • Ditto for duct work. Make sure all duct work is sealed at joints and intersections with duct sealer or silicone caulk. Ducts can be sealed using foil-backed tape or silicon caulking, recommends Dominion.
  • Make sure furnace filters are changed monthly. Optimal functioning of your furnace is critical for an efficiently heated home. It’s also the No. 1 reason for furnace breakdowns, so have your heating and cooling equipment inspected and professionally cleaned annually, or as often as the manufacturer recommends. Make sure all heating ducts are also inspected, recommends AAA. And, if you need a new furnace, you may be entitled to federal tax credits to help cover the cost.
  • Weather-strip all doors, windows and attic entryways. Take a close look at your windows and doors. If you see daylight streaming through, that means they’re in need of sealing with caulk or weather stripping. According to AAA, air leaks around doors and windows can waste as much as 30 percent of your energy use. Use door draft stoppers, weather stripping or even rolled-up towels to seal leaks.
  • Insulate hot water pipes. Doing so can warm your water by two to four degrees and lower your heating bills, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Such insulation is usually available in pre-slit foam pieces so it’s easy and convenient to install. This will also help pipes from freezing and bursting, helping to stave off an expensive and dangerous emergency situation.

If you’re having trouble making ends meet, talk to your energy provider about what assistance may be available, says Dominion. There are usually programs in place to help get you and your family safely through a rough patch.

Study Up on Proper Winter Home Staging

Study Up on Proper Winter Home Staging

Although this may not be the most popular time of year to sell, there’s likely a greater percentage of serious homebuyers looking in your area than during the spring and summer months. Add to that the fact that many areas of the country will experience some snowfall this month, and now is the perfect time to do a rundown of proper winter home staging tips.

Tasks like clearing a safe pathway to your entrance and making sure your home is warm are essential, but there are some other home staging rules that may not be as obvious. Here are some of the top winter home staging tips:

Clear Your Walkways
Let’s start out easy. There is no more important home staging task than ensuring potential homebuyers are safe. If it has recently snowed in your area, be sure to shovel your walkways or, at the very least, a clear path to the entrance. Also, if there is ice on the ground—or even the possibility of ice forming on the path you’ve created—do not forget to put down salt.

Let the Light In
The winter can already be dreary and grey. Don’t add to that aesthetic in your home by keeping curtains drawn. Allowing light to flood your home when buyers are viewing it can have a major impact on their impression of the property. It’s smart to also turn any closet or basement lights on where it’s difficult for sunlight to reach; however, be sure to turn off all computer or television screens, as those will just distract from the warmth inside your home.

Turn Up the Heat
Literal warmth is vital, as well. If potential buyers walk into your home and it’s even a bit chilly, it only gives them reason to leave quickly. Having an extra toasty home will give buyers reason to linger before heading back out into the cold. Don’t forget to turn your thermostat up a couple degrees.

Embrace the Holidays
Christmas and New Year’s may have just ended, but keeping the decorations up for a few weeks is not an issue. Be sure they’re subtle and tasteful, however, and that the tree is down by the time February rolls around. The good news is that if you have any Valentine’s Day decorations, you can put those out whenever you’re done clearing out the December decorations.

Content By: Jameson Doris

Safely Lighting Your Holiday Home

Safely Lighting Your Holiday Home

A well-lit home for the holidays sends a message of seasonal cheer, but it’s important to keep safety top of mind, too. Remember these following helpful tips to ensure the holidays remain safe and efficient.

Outdoor Lighting Safety

– Check all lights for frayed wires or areas where insulation has pulled away from plugs or sockets. Discard and replace any damaged light strings.

– Ensure that tacks or nails used to hold light strings do not pierce any insulation on wires or light sockets.

– Use only extension cords that are approved for outdoor use. These cords must meet rigorous safety standards that indoor cords may not meet.

– Outdoor lights, inflatables and other decorations should be plugged into outlets protected by ground fault interrupters.

– Place outdoor lights on a timer or turn them off before you go to bed.

– Outdoor lights, inflatables and other decorations must not be installed under or near any electric power lines.

Indoor Lighting Safety

– Inspect all light strings and cords for any damage, including frayed wires or insulation that has pulled away from light sockets or plugs. Also check for chewing or scratching damage if you have pets in the house. Discard and replace any damaged light strings.

– Live trees should be kept well-watered.

– No more than three strings of standard indoor lights should be connected to any extension cord.

– Make sure cords are placed where they won’t be stepped on, kinked or pose a tripping hazard.

– Lights should not be permitted to touch drapes, furniture or carpeting.

– Lights should be turned off overnight and when no one is home.

Efficient Decorating

– LED lights use 80 percent less energy than incandescent lights and tend to last 25 times longer.

– Look for “warm” white on the label of LED lights to achieve the look of incandescent lights.

– Stock up on holiday lights and decorations right after Christmas when they are on clearance.

– Set timers for lights to automatically turn on when it gets dark and off in the middle of the night.

Deck the Halls for Happy Holidays

Deck the Halls for Happy Holidays

Whether you opt for fresh-cut or fresh out of the box, trimming the tree is a staple of holiday decor in most homes. However, if you’ll be entertaining this season, you may want to go beyond the tree and take your seasonal decorating to whole new level.

Create a scene filled with festive joy and get your home holiday-ready with these tips…

Choose a theme: Designing around a specific theme is a simple way to keep your holiday decor from feeling cluttered. Your theme might be based on color or a favorite seasonal character like Santa or snowmen. If you’re starting from scratch, begin with a few statement pieces and let your collection grow over time. Choose a new item or two each year, and soon you’ll have a treasure trove of beloved holiday items that can brighten up your home.

Offer cozy accents: Tables, shelves and mantels tend to get their share of decorative love, but don’t overlook the ways you can bring cheer to other parts of a room. A snuggle-worthy throw in vibrant holiday hues and some plush seasonal pillows add practical warmth and good cheer. Another option: fun holiday floor decor, from welcome mats to area rugs to cushy kitchen mats that can make all that time cooking easier on your feet.

Set a stunning stage: Go ahead and fill your guests with delight before they even sample their first bite. A holiday spread served over festive placemats and cheerful motifs can make your table come to life. Bring vibrant colors and cheeky detailed design to your dinner table with placemats and coasters featuring seasonal images like snowflakes, ornaments and red and green lettering with a cheerful “Ho Ho Ho.”

Add pretties to the powder room: The bathroom may not be the first place you think to add some holiday spirit, but it’s a room virtually every guest will visit, so don’t leave it undone. Deck out the room with hand towels in seasonal colors and prints, and add plenty of festive accent pieces like rugs and soap dispensers. Don’t forget a candle with a subtle seasonal scent.

Plumbing Blunders: How to Dodge Holiday Disasters

Plumbing Blunders: How to Dodge Holiday Disasters

A full house for the holidays can be wonderful–but not for your plumbing. Extra pressure is put on home plumbing systems during the holidays, with day-long meal prep and additional house guests, it’s easy for the wrong items to go down the drain and disposal. Below are their top tips for dodging drain disasters.

Your sink can’t handle everything. Fats, bones and vegetable peels can clog drains and damage the disposal. When fats and grease cool, put them into a disposable container and throw it in the trash. If you have a compost pile, that’s a good place for peels. Anything that you can hold in your hand, throw it out instead.

Holiday cooking can strain your garbage disposal. Know how to properly use it! Always run the water when using a garbage disposal. If your disposal becomes clogged, turn it off, and shut off the water. Don’t reach into a disposal, and never, ever use harsh chemicals to treat a clog. Like other kitchen appliances, disposals can use tune-ups, too.

Think outside of the kitchen. Be mindful of the plumbing use in other areas of the home. Holidays guests can require more loads of laundry. Poor water quality and age can lead to breakdowns in the washer hose, which can lead to massive water leaks. Getting your hose inspected will save you from water damage from a defective hose.

Avoid the messiest of all plumbing disasters by understanding what can and cannot be flushed. The amount of people in a normal household easily triples during the holidays.  This means triple the amount of trips to the bathroom, which strains the integrity of your home’s plumbing system. Remind your guests what can and can’t be flushed, and inform them of any plumbing issues you are already aware of. Meaning, if you need to jiggle the toilet handle to get it to flush, spread the word.

Preventative maintenance can save you a holiday headache. If it’s been a while since you’ve had a plumbing inspection, now may be a good time to call a trusted plumbing professional. They can spot potential trouble areas and prepare your home for the holiday influx. They can also help winterize your plumbing system for the colder weather to come. Cold temperatures can put more stress on your pipes, drains, outdoor hose bibs and water heaters.

5 Houseplants Almost Anyone Can Keep Alive

5 Houseplants Almost Anyone Can Keep Alive

Bringing the outdoors in is huge in home décor these days, but so-called black-thumbers—and the forgetful—traditionally have big trouble keeping their houseplants alive and thriving.

Here is a list of the top 5 low-maintenance choices for people who want to bring a little green into their lives…

Pothos. Sometimes called Devil’s Ivy, this plant with shiny, heart-shaped leaves, sometimes speckled with white or gold, does well in any light and doesn’t mind drying out now and then. It’s a little leggy, so you can let it trail from a pot or basket—or trail it along the mantel. Bonus: this plant can help purify the air in your home.

English Ivy. A trailing plant like pothos, this attractive choice has smaller heart-shaped leaves and does an even better job of filtering toxic agents out of the air you breathe. And it doesn’t require much sunlight or water to retain its cheerful demeanor.

Chinese Evergreen. A trim and sleek-looking plant with large green, speckled leaves, Chinese Evergreen stays where you plant it and is a good choice if you don’t have a lot of natural light. It likes a bit of water when the top of the soil goes dry but can do without moisture for as long as two or three weeks without noticeable damage.

ZZ Plant. You may have never heard of this one, but it’s a natural for growing indoors. It has thick, rubbery leaves that might remind you of a palm or fern, and requires about as much attention as a cactus. It grows fastest in bright light, but it does just fine in low light and asks only that you think to water it once a week or so.

Parlor Palm. This attractive palm-like plant with narrow fronds will grow three or four feet high, making it a good choice to show off in a basket or tub to anchor an empty corner. It can handle low light, low humidity, bad air, near-freezing temperatures, and some neglect, making it perfect for people who are accustomed to accidentally killing off their houseplants.

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