RE/MAX 440
Mary Mastroeni
mmastroeni@remax.net
Mary Mastroeni
731 W Skippack Pike
Blue Bell  PA 19422
PH: 610-277-2900
O: 215-643-3200
C: 610-213-4878
F: 267-354-6212 
Welcome Home from RE/MAX 440!

Mary's Blog

Are Your Energy Dollars Going Out the Window?

September 18, 2015 3:52 am

Concerned about high utility bills? Recent studies demonstrate that up to 40 percent of household energy costs are spent on heating and cooling the home. Unfortunately, a lot of this money is going out the window – literally.

According to San Diego Window Fashions, window coverings can help. Aside from blocking natural light and finishing a room aesthetically, window coverings act as insulation for your home, trapping air between the glass and the covering to regulate the interior temperature.

Aluminum blinds and vertical blinds offer the least insulation, since they have gaps that impair the coverage of the windows. Window shutters are better, but still have some gaps. Cellular shades are best, as the cells are designed to trap air, and, when custom-designed, sit flush in the window frame.

To ensure your home is insulated, combine cellular shades with window curtains. Curtains that are designed correctly with pelmets prevent air from escaping upwards into a room, and a total black-out lining prevents air from escaping.

Source: San Diego Window Fashions

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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7 Ways to Cut Household Clutter

September 18, 2015 3:52 am

Keeping a household in order is no easy feat, especially for busy families. According to Todd Tingley, CEO of Ganzier, a storage solution provider, homeowners can maintain an organized, clutter-free home by tackling clean-outs strategically.

1. Do spring cleaning year-round. Twice a year, go through your closets and clean out clothes, especially your children's clothes. If items have not been worn in over a year, let them go.

2. Donate unused toys. Twice a year, go through your children's toys and set aside items that they've outgrown. Before each birthday and holiday season, pull out the toys no longer used and donate them to charity.

3. Clean out sporting equipment seasonally. At the end of each sports season, consider donating any gently used equipment your children will outgrow during the next season.

4. Check food expiration dates. Are you limited in pantry or cabinet space? Twice a year, go through your pantry and clean out what has expired. You will be surprised at how much space you have when you’re finished.

5. Separate seasonal clothes. Take seasonal items, like bathing suits or winter coats, and put them away until it is time to use them.

6. Clean your garage. Clean your garage twice a year by taking everything out and discarding any trash or unused items.

7. Use reusable bags. Not only are they eco-friendly, they diminish the clutter of plastic and paper bags in your home. Keep them tucked in your car so they are always handy.

Source: Ganzier

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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3 Ways to Customize Your Bathroom

September 17, 2015 3:52 am

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3 Ways to Customize Your Bathroom

(BPT) - Creating a custom bathroom doesn't have to involve an extensive (and expensive!) renovation. To get the custom look for less, start with the shower, which is among the least costly components to upgrade.

Simply replacing a utilitarian showerhead, for example, with one that features multiple settings can be a major improvement. Multi-spray, single-spray, rainfall, shower arms and hand showers can work together in virtually any combination you choose. Showerheads can be mounted on the wall or ceiling, depending on the model you choose. Various models are water-efficient, too. Most showerhead changes can operate off existing plumbing, but homeowners should feel free to consult a plumbing professional if desired.

Light can also make a splash in the shower – pun intended! Shower lighting now goes way beyond a single recessed canister light set in the ceiling. Dimmable lighting allows you to control the amount of light stimulation, from low and relaxing to bright and invigorating. Ceiling-mounted chromatherapy lights use the color spectrum to further enhance mood in your shower. Cables of LED lights at the top or bottom of a shower enclosure can accent the space and provide low-level light. Sconces and overhead lighting can help fully illuminate the shower when needed.

Shower seats are another inexpensive option, from stylish portable versions to wall-mounted models that folds flat to the wall when not in use. Short on space in the shower? Opt for a corner seat, like a removable corner stool, or consider adding a simple foot rest.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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The Pitfalls of Joint Banking

September 17, 2015 3:52 am

Joint bank accounts are often viewed as an easy way to give financial caregivers the ability to manage money on behalf of older adults. In some cases, they are used so the co-signee inherits the funds upon the death of the primary account holder. However, both parties rarely understand the risks associated with joint accounts - or the alternatives available to them, according to the American Bankers Association (ABA) Foundation and the AARP.

“At any age, joint accounts may work for some, but we urge you to use caution before signing on the dotted line,” says AARP Chief Public Policy Officer Debra Whitman. “If you don't look before you leap, you could fall into trouble with your finances.”

Before deciding if a joint account is right for you, consider the following factors:

• The co-signee becomes financially responsible for taxes on the account. That means should the primary account holder owe the government back taxes at any point, the co-signee would be just as responsible to the IRS for that money.

• The money is just as much theirs as it is yours. Once someone is listed as a joint account holder, the co-signee and the primary account holder own that money equally in the eyes of a financial institution. Both parties will have the ability to withdraw funds whenever they see fit.

• Creditors can come after those funds. If an account owner were to incur substantial medical bills or face a lawsuit, the funds in the joint account could be used as a liable asset. A creditor might not differentiate between primary account holder and co-signee.

“Setting up a joint account essentially removes the financial firewall between both parties,” says ABA Senior Vice President of Bank Community Engagement Corey Carlisle. “There are often alternatives available that will protect the assets of older customers, as well as those of financial caregivers.”

Source: ABA

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Relocating? Follow BBB's Tips to Avoid Problems

September 17, 2015 3:52 am

Consumers across the country have filed more than 8,000 complaints against moving companies in the last year, according to the Better Business Bureau (BBB). Here's five tips from BBB to help your move go as easily—and trouble-free—as possible.

Plan early – summer is high season for movers, especially since an estimated 37 million Americans a year change residences. Reputable movers will want to do an on-site visit before writing up an estimate to see if there are any impediments which may extend the amount of time required to complete the move.

Ask for proof – Reputable movers will be able to show you proof they are registered with the state of operation, and are licensed and insured.

Get Full Value Protection insurance – Under “Release Value” insurance, movers assume liability of no more than 60 cents per pound per article at no extra charge. With Full Value Protection, your mover is liable for the replacement value of any lost or damaged goods. Under this option, they also have the choice of repairing the item, replacing it with a similar item or making a cash settlement offer for the cost of replacing the merchandise at its current market value.

Know your rights – Under federal law, movers are required to give to you a copy of the federal publication “Your Rights and Responsibilities When You Move”.

Visit ProtectYourMove.gov – You will find a wealth of resources from the Motor Safety Carrier Association at ProtectYourMove.gov. This information clearly outlines your rights and can help you make an educated decision before hiring a mover.

The BBB also recommends consumers thoroughly research prospective moving companies at bbb.org before selecting one.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Road Trip: Survey Discovers a Driver Paradox

September 16, 2015 3:52 am

Something’s not adding up. According to a recent survey commissioned by eDriving, nearly twice as many people (85 percent) think they’re “very good” drivers than think the same of their spouse or significant other – in fact, only 33 percent of people grade their spouse or significant other as a “very good” driver.

Hardly anyone admits to being a bad driver – just 2 percent of people classified themselves as “not very good.” These self-evaluations just don’t match the verdicts of the observers who see the most and know the best, says Celia Stokes, CEO of eDriving.

"The discrepancies here point out an interesting and important truth: most drivers are over-confident, and the people who drive with them the most are probably very aware of their bad habits behind the wheel," says Stokes. “All of us who drive know that the drivers around us have more than their share of driving vices, but we may be blind to our own!"

Source: eDriving

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Is It Time for a New Water Heater?

September 16, 2015 3:52 am

(Family Features) Water heaters are energy-intensive appliances. In fact, they are the second largest energy user in the home, and as they age, they become less efficient, according to the Propane Education & Research Council.

If you don't know the age of your current water heater, or think it may be reaching the end of its lifespan, it may be time to replace it, says home improvement expert Danny Lipford, host of "Today's Homeowner.” Lipford advises keeping these three factors in mind when evaluating your water heater:

1. Cost
– According to U.S. Department of Energy estimates, the average family spends $400 to $600 each year on water heating costs, and as an older unit ages, its efficiency continues to erode. Rising water heating costs year after year could be a sign that it's time to replace your unit. By switching to a new energy-efficient water heater or a new energy source, you could save hundreds of dollars each year.

Depending on where you live and how often you use your water heater, a tankless water heater could drastically lower your annual water heating costs compared with electric storage tank models, which are working to heat water even when it's not needed. In comparison tests with electric units, propane-powered tankless water heaters saved more than $300 annually.

2. Lifespan – Most water heaters should be replaced every 10 to 12 years. To make the right choice for replacement, you should factor in the annual cost of ownership, which is the cost of original equipment, installation and expected annual energy costs divided over the unit's lifetime.

Both high-efficiency propane storage tank heaters and tankless models deliver lower annual ownership costs than electric or heating oil. At the same time, tankless water heaters also have a much longer lifespan than storage models -- they can last 5 to 10 years longer than storage water heaters.

3. Carbon Footprint – Upgrading to a newer, more efficient model means reducing your carbon footprint. Compared with standard efficiency electric storage tank models, propane produces two times fewer emissions. The difference amounts to about 1,300 pounds of carbon dioxide a year, the equivalent of driving a car more than 18,000 miles.

Source: Propane Education & Research Council

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Tree Mulching Best Done in Fall

September 16, 2015 3:52 am

Tree owners often feel compelled to spray, prune or apply something to their trees and landscape plants on a regular basis. But, unless there is a specific reason, the best thing to do to keep your trees healthy is apply a layer of composted mulch.

“Fall is a great time to be out in the yard spreading shovels full of composted wood-chip mulch under your trees,” says Tchukki Andersen, staff arborist with the Tree Care Industry Association (TCIA). “Trees with mulched root zones are usually larger, more vigorous, develop faster and have higher rates of survival than plants surrounded by turf grass or bare dirt. Mulches retain soil moisture and reduce erosion and soil compaction.”

Mulched trees also have fewer weeds, which reduces the need for the roots to compete for limited resources. The soil under the mulch also likely stays warmer longer into the winter and also warms faster in the spring, helping extend the growing season for plants. Organic mulches are a favorite among professional arborists. Other organic mulches include bark chips, ground bark, composted lawn clippings, leaves and straw. These mulches are high in cellulose and low in nitrogen, and should be free of weed seeds.

How Wide is Wide?
A good mulch bed should extend out at least three feet from a tree’s trunk in all directions, though extending out to the dripline is preferred. This is where the fine, absorbing tree roots extend out into the soil. Keep organic mulches several inches away from the base of the tree to avoid rot and diseases.

How Deep is Deep?
The mulch bed depth should be maintained at 2 to 4 inches. If there is grass in the area that needs to be mulched, put a five-page layer of newspaper over the grass, get it wet, then add mulch on top. This will help keep the grass from growing up through the mulch. For poor soils, use well-composted mulch to build up the nutrients. Soils that are healthy will do fine with a highly stable softwood bark (such as cypress bark), which doesn’t break down as easily.

The biggest no-no when mulching is to create a “mulch volcano” that is piled high around the base of the tree. This practice traps moisture around the tree trunk and root flare leading to decay and, eventually, structural failure. Avoid fine mulch – thick blankets of fine mulch can become matted and prevent the penetration of water and air. Low oxygen levels (from packed-down mulch) creates a toxic “sour” mulch – which may give off pungent odors, and even worse, the compounds produced (methanol and acetic acid) can kill young plants.

While mulch does decompose, you do not want to accumulate excessive mulch year after year by adding fresh mulch every spring. If you want the look of fresh mulch, break up the old with a rake, and only add a layer of new on top if there is less than 4 inches in depth.

Source: TCIA

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Why Wood Is Good for Custom Builds

September 15, 2015 3:52 am

Because wood construction consumes much less energy than concrete or steel, using wood when building a home can reduce carbon dioxide emissions significantly, according to The Innovative Wood Products Collaborative (TheMostNaturalResource.com). "Wood construction is incredibly fast and effective, with the added benefit of producing a building that stores carbon rather than emitting it," says architect Michael Green.

As timber grows, it soaks up carbon dioxide through photosynthesis, and that carbon is stored in wood products. This creates a carbon sink that helps mitigate climate change. About half of the dry weight of wood is stored carbon. In contrast, 16 percent of global fossil fuel consumption goes into manufacturing steel, concrete and bricks.

Wood's strength-to-weight ratio is comparable to concrete and steel. Engineered wood products such as cross-laminated timber (CLT), glue-laminated timber (glulam) and laminated veneer lumber (LVL) make it possible to build taller wood structures. These mass timber construction materials are highly fire-resistant and cost-effective. Prefabricated CLT panels can also be installed quickly, speeding up construction time.

“As global demand for wood continues to increase with population, we need to be sourcing our timber from sustainably managed forests," says Thomas Maness, dean of the Oregon State University College of Forestry.

Source: The Innovative Wood Products Collaborative

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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10 Storm Prep Tips to Keep Your Property Safe

September 15, 2015 3:52 am

When severe weather is imminent, homeowners should take every precaution to ensure their properties remain free of damage. According to the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS), there are several steps homeowners can take, including:

1. Secure any parts of a fence that appear weakened or loose.

2. Trim trees and shrubbery away from structures and remove any weakened sections of trees that might easily break off and fall onto structures.

3. When a storm is approaching, move lawn furniture, toys, potted plants, garden tools and other yard objects inside. Anchor heavier yard objects deep into the ground.

4. If you have shutters, closely monitor local weather conditions and make sure you have enough time to deploy them if high winds are predicted to hit your area.

5. Check doors, windows and walls for openings where water can get in. Use silicone caulk to seal any cracks, gaps or holes, especially around openings where cables or pipes enter the house.

6. Place all appliances that are on the ground floor, including stoves, washers and dryers, on masonry blocks or concrete.

7. Move furniture and electronic devices off the floor, particularly in basements and on the first floor level.

8. Roll up area rugs and get them off the floor to reduce the chance they will become wet and grow mold or mildew. This is particularly important if the property will be left unattended for an extended period of time, and if long-term power outages are a possibility.

9. Inspect sump pumps and drains to ensure proper operation. If a sump pump has a battery backup, make sure the batteries are fresh.

10. Shut off electrical service at the main breaker if the electrical system and outlets could possibly be under water.

Source: IBHS

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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