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

2019’s Hottest Home Decor

2019’s Hottest Home Decor

Comfort is trending for 2019, a consensus of home decorators agree, with more people seeking warm colors, intimate spaces, and a casual but sophisticated lifestyle.

Designers looking to pair physical coziness with emotional comfort forecast seven trending decor ideas:

Scaled down furnishings – After years of favoring large furniture and open spaces, consumers are aiming for a ‘nesting’ environment and choosing smaller pieces arranged in more intimate settings. There’s a definite return to rounded edges, especially in furniture with big, soft, rounded arms.

Wall coverings – The return to traditionalism brings with it a return to wallpaper, fabric wall coverings and murals – and expect to see plenty of rich shades of green in fabric and wallpaper patterns.

Color changes – While blues and indigos have been huge in recent years, green is the new blue for 2019 and is likely to be used in everything from upholstery patterns to kitchen furnishings.

Color ‘pops’ – Yellow is the hottest color for small accents, from ceramics to lamps to sofa pillows. There’s also a trend toward ditching beige minimalism in favor of fun colors, especially in family-friendly spaces.

Warm woods and traditional styles – Antiques and even second-hand items are having their moment again, with consumers looking for skirted tables, wooden chests and other wood pieces with a sense of history.

Indoor and outdoor fireplaces – The trend toward coziness leads to indoor fireplaces, working or not, with homey hearths as a nice spot to gather. Outdoors, fireplaces are also preserving a sense of happy summertime barbecues.

Crafts and artisanal accents – In a world of increasingly mass production, there’s a move back to crafting, and to artisanal or boutique choices in pillows, wall hangings, quilts, and other accent pieces all around the home.

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.

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