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What Homeowners Don't Know about Energy Savings

July 7, 2015 3:36 am

According to a recent report, most homeowners participate in some kind of energy-saving activity at home, such as unplugging electronics when not in use, changing HVAC air filters and using a programmable thermostat. The report, conducted by HVAC provider Lennox, concludes that with these measures, homeowners score a ‘B’ in energy conservation. How can they do better?

“Saving energy does not have to be a daunting task,” says Lennox Energy Efficiency Expert Kyle Golden. “There are simple maintenance tasks and improvements homeowners can put into action around the house that can make a big impact on energy bills.”

One of the more common activities cited in the report is turning off the A/C system completely on hot days and the heating system on cold days. This can do more harm than good, explains Golden.

“While turning off your air conditioner system completely seems like an easy and effective way to conserve energy and save money during the summer, it is actually forcing the system to work overtime to get back to a comfortable temperature. Doing so uses more energy and can therefore cost more - not to mention the increased wear and tear on the equipment,” Golden says.

Rather than shutting the system off, Golden advises lowering or raising the temperature of the thermostat, or installing a smart thermostat to do it automatically.

According to the report, homeowners are willing to invest in energy-saving improvements, such as solar panels or appliances, energy-efficient windows, a high-efficiency furnace or air conditioner, insulation, a programmable thermostat, a high-efficiency water heater or a low-flow shower head.

Source: Lennox.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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What's New in High-Tech Kitchen Appliances

July 6, 2015 3:36 am

Just when you think kitchen gadgets and appliances have reached the height of efficiency, a new generation proves you wrong. Design experts give us a close-up look at the newest high-tech kitchen gear:

Google-powered oven tablet
– Dacor’s Discovery IQ Oven goes way beyond convection options with a touch-screen control panel that is a Google-powered tablet. Coupled with the Dacor app, it will tell you when a dish is ready to serve, switch automatically to warming mode and send you smartphone notification. Cost? About $7,500.

A smarter coffeemaker
- Making your morning cup of Joe just got a whole lot easier. With the Mr. Coffee 10-Cup Optimal Brew Smart Coffeemaker with WeMo, you can schedule or adjust brew time from your smartphone. About $150.

Hand-held kitchen thermometer
– Now you can get a temperature read on your turkey without having to hang around the kitchen. The iDevices Kitchen Thermometer alerts your mobile phone when the bird is thoroughly cooked. An additional LED-screened device sits on the countertop or mounts magnetically to your oven, letting you monitor the temperature whenever you pass by. About $98.

Wi-Fi-enabled refrigerator
- Imagine a tablet secured to the front of your refrigerator! The Wi-Fi-enabled LCD screen on this Samsung model lets you watch TV, pull up recipes, and even make or answer calls through your fridge. It boasts counter-height drawers with adjustable temperatures and holds up to 28 cubic feet. About $3,600.

Slow cook from your phone
– Using the free WeMo app, you can control this slow cooker right from your phone. Shift from high to warm to off with the tap of your finger—even if you're miles from home—and dinner will be waiting for you when you arrive. About $130.

Smart bartending
– Mixing drinks is simple with the Perfect Drink scale and app. Compatible with Android and iOS, the scale comes loaded with recipes and walks you through each step for mixing anything from a single glass to a large pitcher of your favorite potent potable. Because the scale is so sensitive, there's no need to measure as you pour. Simply follow the directions on your app. About $40.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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9 Little Must-Haves for Baby's Room

July 6, 2015 3:36 am

Sometimes it’s hard to believe how much ‘stuff’ is needed when preparing to welcome a newborn—and perhaps some of us overdo a bit in the name of, “Oh, that’s so cute!”

But parenting website whattoexpect.com lists 10 items parents-to-be will want to have on hand before they bring home their bundle of joy:

Odor-free diaper pail – Several types are available today, including one that uses baking soda cartridges to help banish nursery odors.

Rechargeable night light – These gadgets emit enough light to guide you on your way to those midnight feedings without disturbing baby’s sleep. A single charge will last for eight hours.

Wipe warmer – A cold wipe can be a jolt to your little one as he’s coming out of sleep. A warmer will hold up to 100 wipes and ensure even the first one is warm.

Crib night light – It isn’t necessary to turn on a light every time you peek in on your baby. A crib light emits soothing light and womb sounds that provide your snoozing newborn with both comfort and security.

Safety gate – No baby-proofing job is complete without a safety gate. Newly designed gates provide top-notch security as well as good looks anywhere in your home.

Closet organizer
– If closet space is scarce, a tiered, 6-shelf closet organizer will hold toys, onesies, diapers and more neatly and within easy reach.

Bottle warmer – Takes the guesswork out of heating baby’s milk or food to just the right temperature. Best of all, it helps prevent the loss of nutrition that can occur if you use a microwave as a warmer.

Portable changing pad
– Great for on-the-so diaper changes anywhere in the house. A non-skid bottom holds it in place while the safety strap and angles sides help keep your baby secure.

Portable diaper caddy – Holds wipes and other supplies as well as a supply of diapers. You can take with you for use wherever a diaper change may be needed.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Interior Housepainting Tips for Newbies

July 6, 2015 3:36 am

Anyone would agree that a fresh coat of paint is the easiest, most cost-effective way to give your home a clean, new look for spring – and even you’ve never wielded a paintbrush before, a few simple tips will help you get results you can be proud of.

From ELivingToday.com, here are nine tips that will have you painting like a pro:

Prep and patch
– Long before you pour the paint, be sure walls are clean and dust-free and use patching paste and a putty knife to patch and smooth any existing chips or nail holes. Use masking tape to mark off windows.

Pick your paint – Apart from choosing color(s), decide which type of paint to use. Latex-based paints are easy to clean with soap and water, but are not as durable. Oil-based paints require a bit more care, but are more durable for areas that get lots of wear and tear.

Pick your brushes – For oil-based paints, choose a brush with natural bristles. For latex-based paint, pick a brush made of synthetic material such as nylon.

Have all materials on hand –
In addition to those above, you will need: drop cloths, gloves, paint rollers and trays, a ladder, primer, stir sticks, paint thinner, and a ball cap to protect your head. Disposable roller tray liners will save some time and effort.

Prime first – Open the windows to let fresh air circulate. Then use primer to prime the walls before you paint – especially in older homes with lots of patched holes.

Mix the paint – For large areas, pour all the paint into one bucket and mix it together using a sturdy paint stick. This will ensure the color is consistent even if there are slight variations from can to can.

Paint in order – If you are painting the ceiling, paint it first before the walls, doors and trim. Just a few strokes of the roller on walls or ceiling will help you find the rhythm that works for you.

Clean brushes and tools – Remember to use water for latex-based paint brushes, paint thinner for oil-based.

Get rid of paint fumes – In addition to opening windows while priming and painting, try banishing paint fumes faster by pouring a little vinegar into a few bowls and setting them out throughout the painted room.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Fourth of July Travelers Number 40 Million-Plus

July 3, 2015 3:37 am

Rising income, driven by a strong employment market, is prompting over 40 million Americans to take a Fourth of July trip this year, according to recent AAA projections. Despite some seasonal increases, gas prices remain well below year-ago levels, which has also helped boost Americans' disposable income.

“Independence Day is typically the busiest summer travel holiday for this reason, and more Americans are planning a holiday getaway than any year since 2007,” says AAA President Marshall L. Doney.

The all-American road trip remains as popular as ever, with nearly 85 percent of travelers planning to drive to their destinations. Over 3 million travelers will travel by air, and another 3 million-plus will travel by cruise, train or bus, AAA estimates.

According to AAA’s Leisure Travel Index, travelers will encounter moderately higher lodging rates and airfares this Fourth of July weekend, with the average nightly stay in a Two Diamond hotel costing $145 and the average nightly stay in a Three Diamond hotel costing $195. Average airfares for the top 40 domestic flight routes will also be higher at an average of $227.

Source: AAA

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Can You Guess the Most Popular Fourth of July Eats?

July 3, 2015 3:37 am

As we gear up to celebrate Independence Day, there’s one food item that will be on the majority of tables across America: hamburgers. According to a recent Instantly survey, hamburgers were named the top menu item for the Fourth of July, surpassing hotdogs by nearly 40 percent. The most popular side dishes will be potato salad, corn on the cob and baked beans, respectively.

When it comes to snack items, the overwhelming majority of Americans will reach for Frito-Lay brand chips, including KC Masterpiece, Kettle Chips and Doritos.

These classic food items uphold a longstanding tradition for many Americans, with 34 percent selecting these items based on historical preference. Nearly three-quarters of Americans who are dieting or watching what they eat consider the Fourth of July a “cheat” day.

Source: Instantly

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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How to Capture Stunning Fireworks Photos

July 3, 2015 3:37 am

Capturing a firework burst is no easy task. Nighttime conditions and a relatively small window of opportunity present challenges for photographers, regardless of skill. But with the right amount of preparation and a few technical tweaks, anyone can shoot stunning fireworks photos. Here’s are three tips to get you started:

Come prepared
– Before you start snapping shots, be sure you have all the essentials on hand. Bring an extra battery and memory card, and a flashlight for when the sun sets. Turn off the flash and remove any filters.

Set up
– A tripod works best, but if you don’t have one, put your camera on a stable surface. Place it upwind of fireworks to avoid smoky images. Set your camera’s scene mode to fireworks or night for optimal results.

Point and click
– Press the shutter release just before the fireworks explode, and use a long shutter speed to capture changing colors and individual formations. Experiment with wider shots to include the surrounding landscape.

Source: Consumer Reports

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Keep Your Cool in the Pool This Summer

July 2, 2015 12:20 pm

Now that summer has officially arrived, if you’re lucky enough to own a pool, you’re undoubtedly the envy of your neighborhood. As temperatures continue to heat up, and your yard becomes the local hangout, you’ll want to be sure your pool is ready for some serious fun.

First, head to your local pool supply store and stock up on tubes, rafts and pool games to keep children and adults alike busy. Investing in a volleyball net or basketball hoop is a great way to ensure the pool is enjoyable for everyone.

In addition to games, you can dress up the appearance of your backyard—pool included—by incorporating resort-like chairs and furniture to provide guests a spot where they can relax and catch some rays. If you’d like to up the ante even more, think about incorporating a cooking station, fire pit and entertainment system to create a backyard oasis.

For decorations, add some color-changing LED lights in and around the pool. There are some stunning visual lights that give you the ability to change up the lighting to suit any mood or event from static colors like blue, green, magenta, red and white to dynamic pre-programmed light shows that enhance nighttime poolscapes with rich and vibrant colors.

Keeping the water in your pool blue is also vital. In addition to vacuuming and adding chemicals, it’s important to make sure the right mixture is used, and be sure to clean the pool regularly. Balancing your water chemistry is the key to keeping your pool healthy all summer long.

Chlorine is the quintessential chemical when fighting and eliminating bacteria and contamination in a swimming pool. The PH is measured by determining the acidity of the water, and a pool that doesn’t have an ideal PH balance can cause skin and eye discomfort. It’s also important to make sure there’s enough calcium in the pool to keep the pipes and heating system working properly.

Remember, there’s a reason you purchased a home with a pool. Providing friends and family with a safe environment in which to play is an important part of ensuring summertime fun.

To learn more about preparing your pool for the summer season, contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Are Drones Set to Take Real Estate Marketing to a Whole New Level?

July 2, 2015 12:20 pm

Over the past several years, there’s been a lot of talk regarding the use of drones to market homes. While drones can film a home from high above and offer a bird’s eye view of the property and its surroundings, it’s important to remember that they’re not yet legal in all 50 states.

According to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), REALTORS® cannot legally fly an unmanned aerial system or drone around a property to capture images for marketing purposes without having the proper documentation in place.

REALTORS® may apply for a Section 333 waiver, which provides a limited-use permit to the applicant and comes with many safety restrictions on the use of the machine, but it’s not the easiest thing to come by—taking as long as six months to come through.

The FAA has received more than 1,200 real estate videography waivers in the past year, and has only approved 311 to date, generally approving about 20 - 40 each week.

Even if your agent has been granted permission to use a drone to market your property, operating drones above a property can be risky—especially if the home is located near an airport. Plus, electrical wires and power lines need to be considered.

“It’s kind of like the wild, wild West right now with real estate and drones, and it’s hard to manage and regulate,” says Raj Qsar, a real estate professional in Corona Del Mar, Calif. “It’s all about trying to connect that potential buyer to the property someway, somehow, through a story, and one way to do that is with aerial photography and drone videography.”

For example, with a traditional video, you might see the home and a car pulling up in the driveway. But with a drone capturing images from above, not only can you see a car driving through the neighborhood and into the driveway, you can also catch a glimpse of the scenery along the way, including community pools, basketball courts and hiking or biking trails. This provides an overall look and feel to the entire neighborhood.

The National Association of REALTORS® is currently working with the FAA and other relevant federal agencies on the safe and responsible operation of drones, and it probably won’t be long until agents across the board can take advantage of drones to help sell real estate.

For more information about the use of drones in real estate, contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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5 Simple Tips to Lower Your Homeowners Insurance

July 2, 2015 12:20 pm

Whether it’s getting rid of cable or opting to cook and eat at home on a consistent basis, homeowners across the board are always looking for ways to reduce their monthly expenses. But when it comes to matters related to the home, many homeowners are leaving money on the table in the form of homeowners insurance.

Before you renew your current policy, here are some simple things you can do to lower your monthly payments.

1. Shop Around. You can’t buy a home without purchasing insurance first, but that doesn’t mean you’re stuck with the insurance provider you’re currently with. Make sure you compare different companies and find the best deal. Don’t leave this for the last minute because you don’t want to get stuck with a policy that’s expensive. Check consumer guides, ask friends and neighbors and search online insurance quote services, which will give you an idea of price ranges and tell you which companies have the lowest prices.

2. Bundle Your Insurance. Many insurance companies will offer discounts if you package multiple policies, such as your car, boat and home insurance. On average, one can save 5 to 15 percent off premiums if they purchase two or more policies together.

3. Safety First. Installing carbon monoxide detectors, smoke detectors and alarm systems can reduce your monthly bill, but you need to let your insurance agent know about any changes you make. Also, ask your insurance agent what steps you can take to make your home more resistant to natural disasters. You may be able to save on your premiums by adding storm shutters, reinforcing your roof or buying stronger roofing materials. Adding a new heating or cooling system or changing out the electrical wiring can also help lower payments.

4. Increase Your Deductible. Most homeowners prefer small deductibles, but in the long run, taking on more of the financial burden if something should happen to your house is a great way to save money. By raising your deductible, your monthly costs can decrease as much as 5 to 10 percent.

5. Rethink Value. It’s not necessary to insure a house for the amount it was purchased for. Even if your house were to completely burn down, you’d still have the land, so consider that when deciding the total amount you need to insure. A good insurance agent will be able to help you calculate the proper replacement cost of the house.

It’s also wise to talk with your real estate agent and see if they have any thoughts on how to lower the cost. And, be sure to review your policy each year to ensure that it still accurately covers your home.

To learn more about homeowners insurance, contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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