There are some things that can be done to reduce your utility bills and also extend the life of some of your home’s equipment. These tips can even help create better cooling and heating in your home. With the average annual yearly spend of over $3,500, wouldn’t it be nice to reduce some of this spend and still have a comfortable home? Many folks think they cannot do anything to manage their utility bill. Or they think they know exactly what to do but may not have thought of these additional tips.
Landscaping can Make a Difference
Managing your landscape can actually effect your utility bill. Try trimming back bushes around your HVAC equipment. Or resetting your sprinklers for a more focused watering approach. By resetting your sprinklers to run for shorter periods of time you can reduce your water consumption and your utility bill.
Standard Home Maintenance can Help
Regularly checking your HVAC equipment and checking windows around your home for any broken seals can help manage your energy consumption. If your equipment is not working properly than you need to resolve it to manage your bills. If you have broken seals, your air conditioning unit will work harder by cooling the outside where these areas are exposed.
Read on for more tips on how to reduce your consumption and therefore lower your utility bills to save money!
Have you ever walked in your home and something was just out of whack? A stench takes your breath away when you walk into a room. You know what we are talking about … your home just stinks! Keeping your home smelling fresh can be simple with a few tips.
Open Your Windows
That’s right, start by opening your windows to let the fresh air in. A good cleaning out of the house with fresh air is the perfect step to removing odors.
Add Fresh Flowers
If you do not have allergies and do have a few extra dollars, practice what some European countries practice. Get yourself some fresh flowers. Fresh flowers can brighten up a room but they also make a room smell so beautiful. Choose your favorite scented flower and keep in your favorite room. Lilacs and roses are great flowers that have vibrant scents.
Change Your Air Filters
Fresh air starts with the air flowing through your ventilation system. To have clean air and to keep your home healthy, remember to regularly change your air filters. Depending on the type of air filters you have, you will change them every 2 – 6 months. We recommend changing them at least four times in the year.
Add Scented Fragrances
Adding candles or plug ins or some other scented item to your home can step up and remove the stink from your abode. There are so many scented items to make your home smell good. Try using oils and reeds. Even natural fragrances like gently simmering herbs and cinnamon on stovetop with some water can make a home smell homey.
Clean Your Trash Cans
We quickly throw out trash and use bags to store it, thinking that these bags can protect the cans they cover. But our cans carry odors from our coffee grounds, left over foods, boxes and containers from yogurt and milk. These items carry odors that stay with the trash cans. Take the time and wash out the trash cans regularly, and practice using baking soda in your bags to limit the odors.
Run a Cleaning Solution in Your Garbage Disposals
Garbage disposals naturally crush food to allow the flow of water in your sinks. But food creates odors. And therefore, your sinks can smell like a trash can. Using a disposal cleaner that you buy in the store is simple to run in your garbage disposal. Also using some white vinegar or ¼ of a whole lemon to clean the disposal is a good thing. To sharpen the disposal blades, add a few ice cubes to the disposal and run the disposal.
Clean your Washer
Fine smelling clothes can smell good on our bodies and in our closets. But foul, musty, and mildew scents can exist if you have a washing machine that has not been cleaned. Simply running some vinegar in a washing cycle without any clothes can clean any odors from the washer that can cause mildew like scents.
Run a solution through Your Dishwasher
Dishwashers are another area of the homes that have lingering odors from caked on food and dirty dishes. You can buy specific dishwasher cleaners from your store and run per the directions. Or like with the washing machine, use vinegar in the dishwasher to run a full empty cycle. Once you have run the cycle, you will have a fresh clean smelling dishwasher ready to take on any grime.
Clean Your Microwave
Like dishwashers, microwaves can carry ongoing smells from food. Food can also splatter on the walls of the microwave. So time to wipe down the inside of the microwave. Using a bowl of 2 parts water and 1 part vinegar, place it in the microwave. Turn the microwave on high for 4 – 6 minutes. Remove the bowl and wipe down the inside of the oven. Now a fresh smelling microwave.
Give your Pets a Bath
We love our pets and they are family. But our pets have fur and dander and pets do not take showers and baths regularly like we do. They go outside in the rain and sun to play in the grass. All fun things for our pets, but our pets then come in our homes and our homes can smell like a wet dog. Giving our pets baths regularly and brushing their fur will help keep our homes fresh and clean.
Does it feel as if your home improvement to-do list never ends? Try organizing your projects by month. Then knock these 12 items off your list.
Once you become a homeowner, the number of things you need (or want) to improve increases exponentially. There’s always something to be done. But certain times of year are better to tackle specific projects, whether your goal is to save money or sanity. Not sure where to begin? We’ve laid out a schedule below.
January: Clean your carpets and rugs
It may seem counterintuitive to do this when it’s cold out, but according to Jonathan Barnett, founder of Oxi Fresh Carpet Cleaning in Lakewood, CO, your flooring gets really dirty during the winter. Waiting until spring to remove all that grime can make it harder to get stains out. “Plus, the lack of humidity during the winter months allows moisture to evaporate quickly so wet carpets dry faster,” Barnett says. “And a clean carpet provides a healthier and better-smelling home, which is especially important during the winter, when most people spend the majority of their time indoors.”
February: Paint a room or two
Now is the perfect time to tackle an indoor project that you can enjoy year-round. “Indoor projects aren’t weather-dependent; it’s more of a supply and demand thing,” says Shaun McCarthy, president and owner of Handyman Connection in Colorado Springs, CO. If you’re hiring someone to paint for you, winter is a good time to do it. You’re likely to get a much better price than you’d get during the spring and summer, when many people book exterior painting jobs. But even if you’re planning to do it yourself, there are still benefits. Brisk winter air is good for curing paint, so cracking that window for ventilation serves a double purpose. (Unlike humid summer air, it won’t make your paint take longer to dry.) While you’re at it, if you haven’t weather-stripped or caulked your windows and doors, do it in February before the winds of March set in, says McCarthy.
March: Clean your gutters
“The most common problem I see in my home inspections is a wet basement or crawl space,” says Marc Shanley, a certified master inspector at Trinity Inspection, which services homes in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. One common culprit? Clogged gutters, which do an ineffective job of directing runoff away from your home’s foundation. All that moisture can cause major foundation problems. Depending on your gutters (and whether you have overhanging trees), you may need to tackle this task more than once a year. Even so, it’s best to do this before the April rains hit.
April: Refinish your hardwood floors
If you’ve discovered hardwoods beneath your new home’s carpeting, wait until spring to complete this labor-intensive but transformative task. “If you wait until it’s really hot out, the finish can cure too quickly and the sheen might not dry properly, which leads to a glossy, uneven finish,” says Arne Johansson, owner of Arne’s Floor Sanding in Minneapolis, MN.
May: Buy a new refrigerator
Although most large appliances go on sale later in the year, refrigerators have their moment in May, in preparation for the summer. To make room for that new inventory, the older versions usually go on sale, which can mean big discounts for consumers. Want even more savings? Consider energy efficiency (look for the Energy Star certification) and ask if you can buy the floor model. Don’t forget to haggle!
June: Freshen up your exterior
Now’s the time to wash your windows (or pay someone to do it), power-wash your siding, and install screens in your windows. Before you power-wash, be sure that all your weatherstripping and caulking is secure (and your windows are closed). Otherwise, you risk shooting the cleaning liquid into your house, says McCarthy. He also advises testing the washer’s power on an inconspicuous area of your exterior beforehand. “You want to clean your house, not take the paint off of it,” he says.
July: Fertilize your lawn
“Your lawn needs a solid four to six fertilization applications throughout the year to keep it healthy and growing,” says Gene Caballero, co-founder of GreenPal, an app that matches customers with landscapers. “Fertilizing in July will give your lawn the vitamins and nutrients it needs to get through the rest of the hot summer months. Also, this midsummer application helps to prevent weeds from germinating — setting you up for less weed pulling in the fall.”
August: Paint your home’s exterior
The best time to paint your home’s exterior is when temperatures remain consistent from day to day and don’t drastically dip overnight. “The real key,” says McCarthy, is “to work your way around the house so that you’re always painting in the shade.” First, map out what time of day the sun hits each side of your home, then paint accordingly. Of course, you could always hire a pro for this task. You might want to get some estimates, especially for a multistory house. Investing in the equipment (including a tall ladder or two) might not be worth the cost or the hassle.
September: Replace your windows
Caulk adheres better when the temperature is between 40 and 80 degrees, so those glorious days of late summer and early fall are an ideal time to replace your windows. Plus, when the cold weather does hit, new windows will keep the heat where it belongs — inside your house.
October: Buy new appliances
Big-ticket appliances such as stoves, washing machines, and dishwashers debut their newest models around this time of year. That frequently means deep discounts on the old ones. Some retailers will even start their holiday sales early. Double savings!
November: Remodel your bathroom
Contractors are entering their slow season this month, so they’re more willing to jump on a small project and get it done quickly, says McCarthy. “A powder room is a good way to test a contractor out, especially if you’re in the market for a larger renovation like a kitchen,” he says. “If you like the way it turns out, great; if you don’t, it’s low risk.”
December: Build a deck
You’ll probably get a good deal, because deck builders will be winding down for the winter. But adding a deck onto your house when it’s cold out makes sense from a building perspective too. December is less humid, so if you’re using pressure-treated wood, it’ll dry more consistently and evenly. Also, the hot sun won’t beat down on it, which can cause warping and cracking.
There are two definitions of funky: 1) something that’s cool, and 2) something that smells bad. For our purposes, we’ll be talking about the latter—and the tragic consequences if this stench is emanating from your home.
The problem is, you may be so accustomed to your home’s smell that you don’t even notice when your guests are knocked off their feet when they enter your home. And whether you’re just entertaining or are hoping to sell your home, off-putting smells can be a huge turnoff, even if your home is immaculate otherwise. To help, here’s your ultimate guide to all the odors that can assail your home and how to get rid of them once and for all.
Cause: Your refrigerator and garbage disposal are basically burping up decaying food.
What to do: Purge your refrigerator on a regular basis, and clean the shelves and drawers to remove rotten spilled liquid. Yes, this is gross. Do it.
“Use distilled white vinegar or hydrogen peroxide and a microfiber cloth,” says cleaning expert Leslie Reichert. To rid your sink of stink, clear rotting food from the blades of your garbage disposal by putting ice cubes down it with some salt and frozen lemon peels.
Cause: The most common nose-crinkling smells in a home are caused by the furry friends that live with us, usually because they don’t always relieve themselves where they should. Odors can also be due to a lingering stench on animal fur, says Frank Lesh, executive director of the American Society of Home Inspectors.
What to do: If a cat or dog uses a carpet as a toilet, use a pet enzyme removal product such as Resolve on the offending area to remove all trace of the scent and find an effective way to deter your pet from a repeat performance in a spot it may consider its own.
For litter boxes, sprinkling a bit of baking soda can work wonders. If shedding is your nemesis, vacuuming the fur (off the floor and furniture) and spot-deodorizing should do the trick.
If all of the above do not work, removal of the offending furniture or rug is often the only way to resolve the issue, says Lesh.
Cause: Think of carpets as large sponges that absorb all the smells in your home—from pet odors to sweaty feet to pungent cooking, and beyond.
What to do: For large olfactory challenges, call in a steam cleaner. For smaller yet troublesome areas, put some cheap vodka in a spray bottle and lightly mist the carpeting.
“When the vodka evaporates, it will take the smells with it,” Reichert says.
Cause: Your air conditioner dehumidifies the air as it cools, but stagnant water can collect in an AC unit, allowing mold and mildew to grow in the lingering moisture. This can result in a smell similar to sweaty extremities wafting from air vents, says Richard Ciresi, a multiple-unit franchisee of Aire Serv in Louisville, KY. And, in addition, if someone in your home smokes, the fumes can get pulled into the condenser coil and recycled into your home every time you run the AC, says Ciresi.
What to do: A quick cleaning and repair to help excess water drain properly should remedy a mildew issue. Since a dirty filter can also harbor mold growth, replace filters regularly. To banish lingering smoke smells, clean the coil.
Cause: Water’s the culprit! “Basement smell” can severely affect the structural integrity of your home as well as your health. Although water can accumulate anywhere, areas where dampness tends to hide include the attic, basement, and bathrooms.
“If you have a water leak behind a wall or under a floor, wood rot may occur along with mold and mildew odors,” says Lesh.
What to do: Finding small leaks early can help prevent serious water damage and offending stenches.
“I recommend looking at the underside of the attic roof at least twice a year or after heavy rain/snowfall in the spring,” says Lesh. In a basement or crawl space, water accumulation is often caused by poor drainage from the roof. Keep your gutters clean and the downspouts flowing away from the foundation. And always dry out damp areas with a humidifier.
Burnt … something
Cause: You may smell a truly weird odor the first time you fire up your furnace in the fall. But relax, it’s typically from the accumulated dirt that falls into the floor ducts, says Lesh. This scent may permeate the entire house for a while when the debris first heats up.
What to do: Simple—clean the ducts before you turn your heat on each year.
A general stale scent
Cause: Stagnant air holds on to dust, dander, and dust mites.
“This usually happens in the summer and winter as we all keep our homes closed up because of air conditioning and heating,” says Reichert.
What to do: You can battle stale air just by opening a few windows once a week to increase air flow.
“Your home needs to have the air exchanged; and if you open some windows, you allow fresh air into the house and remove those stale odors,” says Reichert.
We love spring with all the blooms and warm weather that gets us outside. And we love that we are now opening our windows with some wonderful clean fresh scents from outside. As we have been cooped up for months in our homes, we now have the opportunity to get our homes sparkling. We have five simple spring cleaning tips that any homeowner can do this weekend. Let’s take a look at what these tips are and how you can get a sparkling house in just one weekend.
Change out your winter bedding for spring bedding
Getting a good night’s sleep is oh so important. Your body temperature directly affects your ability for a good night’s sleep. When you remove your winter bedding and add those fresh crisp sheets, you have a luxurious bed to fall a sleep in. Throw the winter bedding in the wash, pack them away for next winter.
Launder your Bath Mats
Walk around your bathrooms, pick up any bath mats or bath rugs and throw them in the wash. Use a little scented detergent to add a little zest to your mats. These mats will feel good on your feet and smell great to boot in your bathrooms.
Vacuum your Draperies and Wipe Down Your Blinds
Quickly and gently use a vacuum extension and vacuum your draperies. Before you take this step, use a lint brush to first remove any lint and dust on the draperies. Once you have taken these two steps, you will see a fresh new set of draperies ready for clean sparkling windows.
Because you are at your windows, also wipe down or vacuum your blinds. Refer back to your manufacturers care instructions depending on the types of blinds you have installed. Some blinds like shutters, can be wiped down, while other blinds may need a vacuum or a blower on low heat to clean them.
Wipe Down your Baseboards, Doorways and Moldings
You may have baseboards, crown molding, and door molding that could use a wipe down after collecting dust all winter. Use a gentle disinfectant by spraying it on a rag and wipe down the molding areas in your home. You maybe on ladders, so be careful. And on floors, so watch your knees. But once these areas of your house are clean, you will have removed dust and grime that has accumulated throughout the winter.
Wipe down Light Switches, Doorknobs and Remote Controls
Each of these areas in your home, have hands that switch them on and off and open and close rooms. Hands that are dirty, oily and potentially full of bacteria. Spring is a great time to get rid of any germs that may have lingered from the winter to avoid any more illnesses that could come in the home.
With these simple spring cleaning tips, you can get your home in tip top shape, smelling fresh and happy!
Plan a party right away, plus more expert tips that might surprise you.
You’ve signed and initialed on all the dotted lines. The house is yours — no more landlords or leases. Enjoy it. Revel in it. Even spend a night in your new, empty home on an air mattress with a box of pizza before things start to get real (it’s a memory you might appreciate down the road). But when the house honeymoon’s over, there’s work to be done, and certain things belong on a “the sooner the better” list. These nine expert tips offering guidance on what to do before you move into your new home just might surprise you.
1. “Borrow” your real estate agent’s contacts
Who needs friend recommendations when you can use your trusted real estate agent’s list? Most agents have plumbers, electricians, and more that they recommend regularly. “Ask your Realtor for a list of preferred providers so you have it handy in the future when you need something,” suggests Megan Shook, a real estate agent with Mosaic Community Lifestyle Realty in Asheville, NC. “It’s comforting to know you have those contacts if you need them in a hurry.”
2. Wait to paint the walls
Living in your home unpacked for a little while lets you see where the light hits every room at all times of the day. So don’t rush to paint the walls before your things are in place, even if that seems easiest. You may end up choosing colors you don’t love — and then you’ll have to paint again.
The type of light bulbs you use also impacts the paint color, says interior designer Barbara Anderson of Preferred Designs in Rehoboth Beach, DE. “The popular Edison bulbs will change the color hue,” she says. When Anderson meets with a client, she places the paint sample in all four corners of the room. She looks at it in natural light, then blocks the light. But while the walls can wait, your ceilings are another, messier matter. Anderson suggests painting the ceilings before bringing in the boxes and furniture.
3. Add a UV film on your windows
Before you drill any holes or plan where you’ll hang your art, find out where the sun is strongest in your new home. “Sunlight can damage works on canvas and paper over time and fade colors,” advises artist Steven Seinberg. He recommends adding a UV film on your windows. You won’t notice it’s there, but it will offer some protection for your precious artwork and furniture.
4. Plan a party
Scheduling a housewarming party two to four weeks after you move in gives you an incentive — and a deadline — to get all those boxes unpacked. Once the invites are out there, you’re committed. It’s the homeowner’s equivalent of telling a friend you’ll meet her for a Pilates class. In many aspects of life, accountability is key. And if the result is a party in your newly organized house? All the better.
5. Do a doggie meet-and-greet
Before you move in, walk Fido around the neighborhood. It’s a good chance to meet your new neighbors and introduce Fido to his new surroundings. Since your neighbors will then know your doggie by name — and where he lives — they’ll know whom to call if he ever gets out of your yard. (Moving-day pet escapes are all too common!) Consider also handing them a business card with your contact info on one side and your pet’s name on the back. They also might be more forgiving of any early morning yapping if they’ve seen how sweet he is up close.
6. Keep every receipt
Make a folder, get a notebook, and keep receipts for everything. You might be surprised at what’s tax-deductible. Claiming the space for your home office isn’t big news, but don’t forget all the pieces that go with the home office. “Whether that’s an alarm, maid service, cost of electricity … all of those things can be prorated to account for the home-office deduction,” says Kelly Phillips Erb, founder of Taxgirl.com. Erb also suggests looking into deductible home mortgage interest as well as the property taxes paid at closing. “I think that gets missed a lot,” she says. And definitely keep track of all those home improvements. You could get tax breaks for these down the road.
7. Get an energy audit
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, you can save up to 30% on your energy bill by making upgrades identified in an energy audit. “Energy-efficient homes are a win-win for the owner and the environment,” says Shook. During a professional energy assessment, an auditor will identify shortcomings in your home that can be fixed to save energy and lower your bills. To find an auditor near you, ask your local electric or gas companies or search the Residential Energy Services Network directory.
8. Vet the vents
If your home is new construction, be sure to vacuum out the vents (with a hose attachment) before turning on the HVAC. Otherwise, the dust that settled in the vents could be blown out — and into your home. Owners of new-construction homes often report needing to change their air filters more frequently, and this is why. Your builder should have done this too, but it can’t hurt to make sure.
9. Start fresh in the safety department
Replace the batteries in the smoke and carbon monoxide detectors immediately. Shook suggests buying a new fire extinguisher as well. At the very least, you’re postponing the inevitable annoyance of dying batteries chirping all at once all over the house. At best, you’re saving lives. “One colleague just had a fish tank pump catch on fire last week at 5:45 a.m.,” Shook says. “Their home had minimal damage due to the detector and the extinguisher!”
Does the mere mention of winter bring to mind drafty days and chilly nights? Follow this advice.
The struggle to keep warm is real, especially when temperatures start to dip below freezing. No one knows this better than the citizens of cold climates. But what’s the best way to deal with the chill? Is having a programmable thermostat worth it? Do heavy-duty curtains really curtail the cold? We asked our frigid-weather friends for their best tips on staying toasty indoors when winter is in full force. And no, moving to Miami, FL, wasn’t one of them — though that’s not a bad idea.
1. Make sure your windows and doors are properly sealed
If your windows and doors are super old, and it’s in your budget to do so, replace them. Jeana Kraft, a resident of Wausau, WI, says her family opted for a brand of windows that are manufactured in northern Minnesota, one of the coldest places in the country. “I think they have an edge on designing windows that can withstand long, very frigid winters,” she explains. Otherwise, try placing clear plastic over especially drafty windows or add a threshold seal to your sliding doors, suggests Brian Hugins, who resides in the suburbs of Chicago, IL.
2. Invest in insulating curtains
“This is particularly useful for sliding glass doors, older windows, or if you have a couch in front of your windows,” says Karen McConnell of Newton, MA, a suburb of Boston. “When you’re reading or watching TV, it’s pretty hard to get comfortable with an icy breeze trickling through, and curtains can mean the difference between coziness and cranking up the heat (and the corresponding utilities bill) yet again.”
3. Keep the doors between rooms open
“Because of our house’s wonky heating system, some rooms get really cold, whereas others are overheated,” says McConnell. “We’ve found that if we keep the doors open to the overheated ones, it helps to keep everything a little more balanced and comfortable.”
4. Stock up on flannel sheets and down comforters
“We still keep a lot of blankets on hand in sitting rooms, and we place flannel sheets on the beds,” says Kraft. For McConnell, pairing flannel sheets with a down comforter makes a “huge difference on cold nights.” Never underestimate electricity-free means of keeping warm.
5. Install a programmable thermostat
“But make sure you re-evaluate your settings every few months, particularly if you have different heating/cooling zones in your home or your lifestyle has undergone any changes,” advises McConnell. “I realized I needed to do this when I wandered into our family room and was surprised by how toasty warm it was. We still had the heat settings tailored to when my daughter was younger and we spent almost all our time there.”
6. Splurge on floors with heated coils
“We have them in our master bath, and I thank God each time I wake up on a cold, dark morning and step onto my heated bathroom floor,” says Kraft. “If someone told me that I had to take 1,000 square feet off the design of my home in order to meet the budget for a heated bathroom floor, I would take the heated floor.”
7. Light a fire
“We had a wood-burning fireplace in both our previous and current homes, and on cold nights, it could heat the whole house,” says Kraft. If you do light a fire, be sure to close the chimney flue once you put it out. Otherwise, you’ll let in a lot of cold air.
8. Insulate your attic
“That was the first thing we did when we moved into our house,” says Heather Wiese, of Dexter, MI, outside Ann Arbor. It’s a weekend project that the U.S. Department of Energy estimates can save you 10 to 50% on your energy bill. You can use either loose fill insulation (and “blow it in” with a machine you can rent from a home improvement store) or batts, which are sold in large rolls. Pro tip: Be sure to fix any air leaks with foam sealant or caulk, or the extra insulation will be for naught!