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5 Affordable Home Improvements That Will Save You Energy This Summer

By Yuka Kato, Content Manager of Fixr.com

We all want to save on energy costs. Not only is there the obvious financial benefit to cutting back on electricity use, there’s an environmental benefit too. Not to mention, if and when you do choose to sell your home, the fact that it is energy efficient can be a huge draw card to potential buyers.

There are a number of ways that you can improve your home and make it more efficient in the long run. Here, we go over 5 affordable and easily actionable improvements that will help to save you energy this Summer.

Weather Stripping

Weather stripping is a process that involves sealing up all those small cracks and drafts in your home where the outside meets the inside. Although they might seem innocuous enough, all those gaps, like those around your doors and windows, can end up costing you a lot more than you might imagine.

In the Summer, hot air from outside permeates the cool space you have inside, and in the Winter it’s cold drafts making their way into your nicely warmed home. Because of this, your cooling and heating systems have to work much harder to maintain the temperature you want.

Sealing your home properly with weather stripping can mean significant savings. The type of material you’ll use to seal your house will depend on where the drafts are and how big the crack or gap is.

Check Your Insulation

Having a properly insulated home means that your summertime cooling costs will be lower than in an uninsulated or poorly-insulated house.

If your home has an attic, consider insulating it first. It’s possible that you already have some form of insulation there, if so, check to see what condition it’s in and top it up if necessary. According to Energy Star, attics are the easiest part of your home to insulate and can have the biggest effect on your overall energy costs. Estimates for how much you might save range from
20% to a whopping 80% in cooling costs.

Install “Low Flow” Water Fixtures

Low flow water fixtures are exactly as the name suggests, they’re additions you add to your faucets to make water flow at a slower rate. And less water use means more savings. As an added bonus, these fixtures are cheap to purchase and install by yourself.

In your bathrooms, consider installing aerated low flow shower heads. These special fixtures give you the feeling that you’re showering in a high flow but actually conserve a lot of water; while a regular shower head uses roughly 4 gallons of water per minute, an aerated low-flow version uses around just half of that.

Install Ceiling Fans

Ceiling fans circulate air around your home and are typically far more energy efficient than air conditioners are. While ceiling fans alone may not be able to cool your home to the temperature you’d like it to be during a really hot Summer, using your fans alongside your air conditioners means that you’ll be able to take some of the pressure off your AC units.

Fans are also ideal for those days when it’s a little bit too hot for no cooling system but not hot enough for the air conditioner to be running. The cost to buy and install ceiling fans ranges depending on the type of fan you’re after and whether your home has the necessary electrical wiring already in place.

When buying fans, look for those that have a CFM (cubic feet per minute) rate of at least 75, these are the most efficient when it comes to air flow.

Invest in a Tankless Water Heater

Tankless water heaters save you money because they only heat water as and when they need to. This is unlike traditional tank water heaters which constantly heat and keep hot, a larger volume of water.

While the initial outlay for a tankless water heater, ranging from $1,500 – $2,000 for a single-point model, is a bit more than some of the other energy efficiency measures we’ve looked at on this list, the savings are significant. According to the Department of Energy, tankless water heaters are 24% – 34% more efficient than storage heater units in homes that use 41 gallons of water or less per day.

Taking steps to make your home more energy efficient has obvious financial perks which go a long way toward taking the sting out of the initial outlay. While some of the above investments are pricier than others, all are, in the long run, affordable ways to make improve your home’s efficiency and save you money on energy costs this Summer.

 

 

 

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Here is Your Summer Home Maintenance To-Do List

summer maintenance

Re-posted from The Budget Dumpster

There’s no time like the summertime to start tackling some items on that home maintenance checklist. There are all sorts of little things you can do to spruce up your home, both inside and out, while the weather is warm. Here’s a quick list of 15 summer home maintenance tips and projects you can do to spruce up your home and keep it clean throughout the year.

Maintenance Tip #1: Exterior Paint Touch-Ups

This is a quick outdoor home maintenance tip that will give a boost to your home’s exterior appearance. Now that it’s warm enough to work outside, you can finally touch-up the paint on the outside of your home. If you can’t remember the exact color of your home, you can ask a paint professional at your local paint store to come out and help you find the perfect match. This can be a simple weekend summer home maintenance project to get you started on that home maintenance checklist.

Maintenance Tip #2: Wash Exterior Windows

Summer is the perfect time of year to wash your windows from the outside. This is one of those things that doesn’t get done very often, so you may need to use a little elbow grease to get your windows squeaky clean. Simply fill a bucket with hot soapy water and get scrubbing. If you wash your windows more than once a year, you may be able to get away with just using Windex, but a bucket of soapy water and a sponge will usually deliver the best results.

Maintenance Tip #3: Clean or Replace Window Screens

Washing your exterior windows won’t make much of a difference, if you don’t also wash your window screens. Take off all your window screens to your house and gently scrub them with hot soapy water. If your window screens are too filthy to be cleaned, you may just want to replace them.

Maintenance Tip #4: Clean Your Home’s Exterior

Shane McDonough, Director of Marketing at Ned Stevens Gutter Cleaning, knows that one tough and tedious task you’ll need to check off your summer maintenance list is cleaning the exterior of your home:

“From stains to moss to bacteria, dingy roofs, siding and decks not only look poorly from the curb, but can also contribute to an array of other household problems and even shorten the lifespan of your home. While pressure washing can damage your home and lead to expensive repairs, soft washing is a safe, eco-friendly, biodegradable option that can boost curb appeal, increase energy savings and extend the lifespan of your home.”

 

Maintenance Tip #5: Reverse Ceiling Fans

It’s a good idea to reverse the direction of your ceiling fan during the summer so that it spins counter-clockwise. This pushes the air straight down, creating a nice breeze. To do so, shut off the fan and wait for the blades to come to a complete stop. Once everything is still, use a ladder or step stool to locate the direction switch, this will probably be on the side of the fan above the blades. Flip the switch in the opposite direction and then turn the fan back on.

Maintenance Tip #6: Clean Your Air Conditioner Filter

This summer home maintenance tip is essential to keeping cool. Every air conditioner has a filter that should be cleaned out every two weeks, especially if it is running at an all-time high. You can clean the filter of dust by washing with warm water or using a vacuum cleaner. If your air conditioner is newer, it may have a self-cleaning function.

Maintenance Tip #7: Air Conditioner Fan Removal

The filter is not the only part of your A/C unit that needs attention. The fan needs to be cleaned of dust as well. To remove the fan in your air conditioner, you must first turn off the unit. Next, remove the frame of the air conditioner, this should come off fairly easily once you’ve located the mounting points. Now take out the fan motor, it should be located right behind the fins inside the unit. You may need some tools to remove the bolts and wires holding down the fan but it shouldn’t be too difficult to remove. Once removed, check the fan, clean it off and then replace it the same way you took it off.

Maintenance Tip #8: Check Your Furnace Filter

Getting tired of dust? We haven’t even scratched the surface. Your furnace has a filter and, just like your A/C unit, it needs to be cleaned. All you have to do is turn off power to the furnace and then locate the filter behind the service door. You may need to unscrew a panel or two. Remove the filter and give it a wash it if it is a reusable one. If the filter has a cardboard frame, you will need to replace it instead of washing it.

Maintenance Tip #9: Washing Machine Maintenance

Your washing machine is one of those appliances that needs some light maintenance every now and then. When your washer is not in use, inspect the seal between the door opening and the drum for areas of soil buildup or any stains. If you find any, you can clean it with a mixture of ¾ cup of chlorine bleach and a gallon of warm water. Wipe the area with the bleach/water solution and then let it sit for about 5 minutes. Now, wipe dry with a clean cloth, and let it air dry. This will remove any odors and keep your clothes from getting stained by dirt deposits inside the seal.

Maintenance Tip #10: Clean and Inspect the Patio, Driveway and Walkways

Another great summer home maintenance tip is to thoroughly clean your walkways and driveway. The key to cleaning a patio, driveway and walkway is to use a pressure washer. Before you get out your pressure washer however, it is a good idea to check these areas for cracks and weeds. Once you have inspected everything, get out that pressure washer and wash away everything that has been sitting on there for the past year.

Have Travertine? Think no maintenance is necessary? Every once in a while high traffic areas need to be cleaned on your travertine pavers. We at, Hello I Live Here, make our travertine part of our beginning summer cleaning program. High traffic areas and travertine near trees should be cleaned to keep the travertine beautiful. We use DuPont™ StoneTech® Professional Stone & Tile Cleaners. We simply follow the products directions, apply with a mop. If it’s a bad area, we use a more concentrated mixture. It’s not necessary to seal your travertine, but keeping high-traffic areas clean helps keep its beauty. Remember be responsible by reading bottle directions for proper disposal of empty containers and rules for dumping in your state.

Maintenance Tip #11: Wipe Down & Clean Baseboards

Baseboards are often overlooked when it comes to cleaning. It can be tough to muster up the energy to get on your hands and knees and clean the trim, but it is something you want to do at least once a year to keep dust and dirt from building up. A damp cloth and a little patience is all you need to clean up the trim around your home.

Maintenance Tip #12: Clean the Garbage Disposal and Dishwasher

This home maintenance tip isn’t necessarily just a summer chore. But it is important to clean out your garbage disposal and dishwasher every once in a while. You can easily clean out your garbage disposal by flushing it with hot water and some dish soap. To clean your dishwasher, you should add 2 cups of vinegar to the bottom of the machine and run the machine on low wash. You can also make your own garbage disposal refreshers.

Maintenance Tip #13: Hose Inspection

Inspect the hoses to your washer, dehumidifier, dishwasher, icemaker, toilets and refrigerator for any signs of leaks, cracking or wear and tear. You should replace these hoses once every 3-5 years, but it is important to regularly check for any signs of leaking.

Maintenance Tip #14: Attic and Basement Inspections

Attics can be claustrophobia-inducing, but you do have to brave those tight confines at least once a year. You want to check your attic for any indication of pests or insects, water leakage, mold or mildew, and turn off the lights to check for any sign of peeking daylight. You will also want to check your basement for any indication of pests or insects, water leakage, mold and mildew, as well.

Maintenance Tip #15: Rent a Dumpster Before You Remodel

Considering a bathroom remodel this summer? Be sure to rent a dumpster for all the drywall, tiling and other leftover debris. How big of a dumpster? Rob Robillard of “A Concord Carpenter” recommends using a 15 or 20 yard dumpster for an average-sized bathroom remodel and emphasizes having a plan in place to manage your remodeling debris. “You need to think about trash, you need to think about a dumpster: where you are going to put the dumpster. How are you going to get the trash from the bathroom into the dumpster?” If the dumpster is close enough to the house, you can set up a trash chute outside of a window that runs directly into the container. If the dumpster is near or on the street, you can use barrels to carry the trash out to the dumpster instead.

Have any other maintenance projects on your home maintenance checklist? Let us know in the comments below. Feel like tackling your own DIY project this summer? Check out our “exceedingly comprehensive” DIY home improvement guide for some DIY remodeling tips and more.

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8 Quick Tips to Giving Your Front Porch a Facelift

front porch

By Jackie Greene

The first thing that people see when they drive up to your home is your front yard and porch area. Make sure that the first impression of guests and visitors is one that correctly resembles the home that you keep. Here are 8 quick tips on giving your front porch a facelift.

#1: Wash It Down

It is easy to forget the original color of your walkway, steps, or front porch area. Consider pressure washing the area to restore everything back to its original color. Pressure washing is easy to do and you will be amazed at the difference that a few years of grime can put on your outdoor surfaces.

#2: Clean It Up

There is nothing that will kill a facelift like old cobwebs lawn that hasn’t been mowed.  Make sure to keep the front of your home looking sharp by regularly and properly mowing the lawn–don’t forget the edging–as well as clearing away old cobwebs or leaves that have stayed past their welcome.

#3: Paint the Front Door

Nothing draws more attention than a freshly painted front door. Look online for color inspiration and don’t automatically rule out bright colors like red, yellow, or blue. If you are looking for more of a sophisticated look, consider going dark by painting your door black to add instant elegance to your front porch.

#4: Add Potted Plants

A few well-placed pots that accent your color scheme will go far in providing interest to a front porch area. Consider painting some old pots in a new color to brighten the space. Cluster different colors together to tie into your overall front porch decoration scheme. Choose plants that you love that will do well in the sunlight exposure of your front porch area. Vary the plants in different sized pots to add even more interest as well.

#5: Hang It Up

After you paint your front door, consider door hanging decor that will attract the eye of visitors. Choose a wreath with your favorite flowers or consider hanging seasonal items that celebrate an upcoming holiday. Have a regular supply of door hangings to change the overall look of your front porch in just a few seconds.

#6: Add a Sign

There is nothing better than a cute outdoor sign that will either welcome guests or get them to chuckle before entering your home. Choose from a variety of outdoor décor signs that come in a wide range of sizes, colors, and sayings. Adding a sign to your front porch area adds interest to your front outdoor space as well.

#7: Take a Seat

Invite guests to spend time with you outdoors by adding some easy seating to your front porch area. Chatting with friends outdoors is a great way to use your outdoor space as well as speak to neighbors passing by. Even small front porch areas can quickly find seating options like stools or lawn chairs that are easy to put away when not in use.

#8: Make It Cozy

Welcome guests to your home and invite them in with a cozy feeling on the front porch. Add new pillows or throws on your front porch seating that will convey that your home is comfortable as well. Hanging outdoor curtains will also help to enhance your front porch area.

Whether your home is in dire need of renovation or you’re simply looking to stand out from the pack, sprucing up your front porch is a great way to add instant curb appeal and set the mood for guest. Taking care of your front yard and outdoor living space is important when hosting guests. Provide interest to your home by doing these quick tips to freshen up your front porch.

 

Jackie Greene is a blogger, gardener, and nutrition enthusiast. She enjoys creating organic meals for family and friends using the fresh ingredients she produces from her backyard homestead.

 

 

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