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Three Ways to Save Money on Plumbing

July 23, 2014 12:33 am

Torrential summer rain, ubiquitous family barbecues, and an influx of weekend visitors can have unforeseen effects on a home's pipes. Plumbing systems do a lot of extra work during the summer, so keep in mind these three tips to help keep your home’s plumbing system in tip-top shape.

1. Check washing machine hoses. The warm weather and longer days equal more time spent outside and more dirty clothes. This excess use can put a strain on washing machine hoses, so taking the time to ensure that everything is working correctly could save a homeowner both time and money down the road. Inspect hoses for bulges, kinks, or cracks that could result in a burst. Periodic checks can prevent costly and damaging floods.

Expert tip: Look into purchasing braided steel hoses for your washing machine, as they are less prone to bursting and last years longer than their rubber counterparts.

2. Be kind to your disposal. Many foods can damage a garbage disposal and clog your drains, so be mindful when preparing food for summer parties and cookouts. Avoid putting stringy foods, such as cornhusks and celery, in your disposal as they can damage the blades. In addition, pasta, rice, and other foods that expand with water will quickly clog a home's pipes.

Expert tip: Don't use hot water when grinding food waste. Instead, turn the water on to drain the disposal in between grinding periods.

3. Look for signs of sewer line breakage.
During rainy seasons, water can infiltrate a home's sewer line and cause a backup. Rain also encourages the growth of nearby plants. Tree roots in particular grow aggressively into underground piping, causing damage. Look for signs of an issue, like standing water on your property, which can indicate a broken sewer line. If you think you may have a broken line, be sure to have your local plumber inspect the issue.

Expert tip: Hydroscrubbing your pipes can clear them of debris and roots.

Source: Mr. Rooter

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Top 7 Vitamins and Minerals for Optimal Health

July 22, 2014 6:24 am

(Family Features) Balancing the demands of a busy family and work life can make it extra tough to get the nutrition and exercise your body needs. Fortunately, even on the most chaotic days, there are steps you can take to make sure you’re not short-changing yourself from proper physical and emotional health.

In addition to eating well-balanced meals, taking a daily multivitamin, exercising and managing stress, you can fill gaps with these seven vitamins and supplements:

CoQ10 – Coenzyme Q10 helps support heart function and cellular energy production.

Diabetic Multivitamins – A high potency supplement, diabetic multivitamins provide essential vitamins and minerals for nutritional support of the body.

Flaxseed Oil – For people who avoid fish in their diet, flaxseed oil is a plant-based source of essential fatty acids, including the Omega-3 alpha linolenic acid (ALA), which helps support a healthy heart.

Garlic Supplements
– Garlic supplements may help maintain normal blood cholesterol levels already within the normal range.

Herbal Supplements – Herbal supplements help support a range of healthy body functions and general well-being.

Letter Vitamins (A, B, C, D and E) – Each of the letter vitamins performs a unique and important function that contributes to overall health. Vitamin A contributes to healthy eye function; Vitamin B supports cellular energy production; Vitamin C functions as an antioxidant, which supports the immune system; Vitamin D supports teeth, bone, and muscle health; and Vitamin E, helps maintain a healthy heart.

Omega-3/Fish Oil – Omega-3 fatty acids, EPA & DHA, which are found in fish oil, help support a healthy heart.

Source: Nature Made

Published with permission from RISMedia.


How to Prep for an Exterior Paint Job

July 22, 2014 6:24 am

Summer is the perfect time to update your home’s exterior. Adding a fresh coat of paint will create a whole new look and instant curb appeal. Ideally, the home should be painted in warmer seasons, when the temperature falls between 60 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit. Before painting, keep in mind these tips:

1. Clean – Whether you do it yourself or rent a power washer, be sure to thoroughly clean your home’s exterior. For really tough stains, scrub the surface with a wire brush. Use a commercial grade cleaner or chlorine bleach to eliminate any mildew. Allow several days for any remaining moisture to dry completely.

2. Prep – Scrape away cracked caulk from windows, peeling paint or rotted areas. If the entire board is rotted, replace it. Re-caulk where needed. Fill holes with wood filler and sand down to conceal any patchwork.

3. Prime – Add a layer of primer to any areas revealed when scraping. Paint a test patch to see how your color selection works with your home’s landscaping and architectural details.

4. Cover – The day of, be sure to cover exterior lights, gutters, exhaust vents and air conditioning units with plastic. Avoid damage from drips and spills by covering greenery and stone surfaces, like a walkway or patio, with a drop cloth.

If your home’s exterior is something other than wood (masonry or stucco, for instance), check whether you need to seal the surface before painting. Most importantly, consider the forecast before planning your paint job. It’s never a good idea to paint when rain or wind is predicted.

Source: Consumer Reports

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Prevent Flood Waters from Damaging Your Home

July 22, 2014 6:24 am

Soaked rugs, damaged walls, warped flooring and ruined furniture are only the beginning of what homeowners deal with after flood waters hit their area. Flooding can be caused by heavy rains, severe storms, poor drainage, plumbing issues, and other water-related issues. The key is to be prepared before, during and after your home floods.

  • Check with an insurance agent about flood insurance for the home.
  • Prepare a home inventory of furniture and valuables in the home, including details and pictures.
  • Put together a family emergency plan and make sure everyone in the household knows what to do.
  • Prepare an emergency kit, including insurance policy numbers and phone numbers, a change of clothes for each family member, essential toiletries, bottled water and non-perishable food items, flashlights, batteries, blankets, first aid kit, disposable cleaning cloths, insect repellent, and enough cash to last you a few days.
  • If you have a leak in your home, have it repaired immediately. Waiting to do repairs often results in flooding that causes structure or mold damage to your home.
  • Watch the weather for high amounts of rain in a short time period or tropical storms headed your way. Listen carefully to advisories, follow directions from local officials, and evacuate if needed.
  • If you have a second floor or large attic, move special furniture, family photographs, area rugs, computers, televisions, artwork, and other expensive items to a higher level to keep them dry.
  • If flooding is about to reach your home, shut off the electricity, gas, and water to your home.
  • Never touch electrical sources if you are standing in water.
  • Never walk or drive through high floodwaters.
  • Report damage to your insurance company as soon as possible.
  • Take photos of the damaged areas both inside and outside to give to your insurance company.
  • Never turn on the electrical power to your home until a professional makes sure it's safe to do so.
  • Never use a home vacuum to remove water.
Source: Rainbow International

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Create a Perfect View with the Perfect Patio Door

July 21, 2014 6:12 am

(BPT) - It's the time of year to get outside, dine on the deck, bask in the backyard or relax on the patio.

Is your home ready for summer entertaining or is it time for a remodeling or replacement project? If the answer is the latter, now's the time to get more out of your home by improving access to the great outdoors. You can do this by replacing your patio door. Replacing it can transform your home's view and comfort year-round.

1. Select a style: hinged or sliding. Hinged patio doors, often called French doors, add an elegant look to your home. Choose from popular options like two movable doors that swing open from the sides to allow room to move in big furniture or groups of guests, or movable and fixed door combinations that can hinge from the center, or a single door for simple elegance. You can also create a custom design, complete with sidelights or transom windows, to span your home's unique architecture.

If floor space is limited, or if your patio door opens to a balcony, consider a sliding patio door that takes up less floor space. Look for a patio door with the sliding panel on the outside, so that when the wind blows against it, the design creates a tighter, more energy-efficient seal to help keep your home comfortable.

2. Choose energy-efficient options. Look for the ENERGY STAR label to easily select energy-efficient patio door styles, including ones manufactured with vinyl, fiberglass or wood frames.

Vinyl doors offer exceptional energy performance and outstanding strength and weather resistance. Low-maintenance vinyl sliding doors will look great for years, without the need for painting.

For a durable product that withstands extreme weather, plus resists dents and high traffic from people or pets, consider a fiberglass patio door. Sleek, strong, highly-energy efficient fiberglass withstands extreme heat, cold, and moisture. With a long-lasting powder coat finish, fiberglass doors don't need painting and resist sagging and warping, even in dark colors or hot climates.

Alternatively, consider the natural warmth, beauty and energy-efficiency of wood patio doors. They are available in virtually any shape, size, grille pattern, and exterior color. You can save time by choosing factory prefinished wood interiors and trim.

3. Decide on decorative options. Optional between-the-glass shades or blinds help reduce dust accumulation, eliminating the dreaded chore of cleaning blinds or shades. Blinds or shades between-the-glass are a natural for patio doors, since they don't interfere with the operation of the door itself, yet make it a breeze to control light and privacy. Plus, shades and blinds without cords are safer options for homes with pets or children.

Choose from grilles permanently applied to the exterior of glass surfaces or with the added convenience of between-the-glass grille options that make cleaning a breeze. You can also consider removable grilles to transform your home's look from contemporary to Colonial in a snap.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


5 Dishwasher Must-Haves

July 21, 2014 6:12 am

One of the smartest investments you can make when remodeling your kitchen is to replace outdated appliances. Sleek, modern versions instantly transform a tired kitchen into a contemporary hub of home activity. If you’re considering a new dishwasher, keep in mind these features before purchasing:

Speedy Cycles – This feature is a must for big families or households that entertain guests frequently. At the very least, look for a dishwasher that has a 20-minute quick cycle.

Time Indicator – Knowing how much time is left on a load is helpful if your dishwasher is loud. Many newer models have eliminated the timer, so be sure to shop around for one that offers a digital reading.

Soil Sensors – If you want to save on your utility bill, opt for a dishwasher with a soil sensor. Most come equipped with technology that automatically adjusts to a load’s soil level, conserving water and energy.

Adjustable Upper Rack – This one’s a no-brainer; an adjustable upper rack makes it easy to accommodate large dishes.

Alternative Flatware Storage – If you’ve ever been dissatisfied with the cleanliness of your dishes, choose a model with slots above the utensil baskets. This not only provides a thorough clean, but gives you the option to wash larger utensils.

Source: Consumer Reports

Published with permission from RISMedia.


4 Painless Ways to Pay Down Your Mortgage

July 21, 2014 6:12 am

Paying off a mortgage is a long-term commitment—30 years in most cases, and costing hundreds of thousands in interest. But if your goal is early retirement with a paid-off mortgage, you can meet that goal—and save many thousands in interest along the way—by paying down the principal with a few extra bucks here and there.

The caveat, said financial advisor David Bakke, is that you specify on these extra payment checks to your lender that the funds are to be used for principal deduction only.

Bakke offers four ideas for paying down your mortgage early while hardly feeling the pinch:
  • Lower the interest rate – Stay alert to opportunities to lower your mortgage rate. Dropping 1.5 to 2 percent interest from a 30-year fixed rate mortgage can lower your payment by several hundred dollars per month. That’s money you can put toward retirement savings, vacations, or kids’ college accounts – or toward paying down your mortgage even faster.
  • Turn a small luxury into an extra payment habit – Consider the small, perhaps daily luxuries you are willing to forego; the $4 latte every morning…a magazine subscription you don’t need. Stash that money and use it toward principal reduction.
  • Turn underperforming investments into equity - Many people have investments that are returning less, as a percentage, than their home mortgage interest rate is costing them. If that's the case, and you have no reason to think that the investment will turn around soon, it might pay to put that money toward paying down the principal on your mortgage.
  • Stash those regular or unexpected little windfalls – Got an unexpected tax refund? A larger-than-expected birthday check? Or perhaps you save a few bucks on groceries each week by using those clipped coupons? Stash the money you saved, or any other extra amount, and apply it each month to mortgage principal.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Four Steps for Attacking Garage Organization

July 18, 2014 5:39 am

(Family Features) Organizing the garage may be one of the most feared tasks in household history. According to a recent Gladiator GarageWorks survey, nearly three out of four households can only park one car in their two-car garage, illustrating the need for a serious garage intervention.

The importance of having a well-organized garage isn’t only for improved functionality – it also helps add overall value to a home. More than 80 percent of real estate brokers or agents recently surveyed said that a cluttered, unorganized garage can have a negative impact on a potential home buyer’s first impression.

There are a few steps that can help homeowners prepare for the ultimate battle against clutter and reclaim their space in the garage:

1. Clean and Prep
Clutter is one of the biggest issues with garage organization. The only way to know what is in the garage is to remove all of the items inside and start with a clean slate. As you remove items from the garage, be realistic about what you do and do not use and separate them into three categories: keep, donate and toss.

2. Have a Game Plan
First, measure the garage so you can make an accurate plan for storage solutions and factor in large items, such as lawn mowers and sporting equipment. Next, decide how to group similar items and what your storage needs are. For example, do you prefer to hang items on hooks, store in baskets or be able to hide items in cabinets? Start exploring your options.

3. Build Your Storage System
Use the walls in your garage to get gear off the floor and maximize storage space by choosing storage solutions that are durable and long lasting. For instance, stackable plastic storage bins or shelving units can sometimes reduce clutter, but they aren’t always built to handle extreme temperatures in the garage.

4. Add Final Touches
Once you have stored large items in your garage, it’s time to add some final touches to maximize efficiency and make your workspace functional. Keep a trashcan nearby your work area so it stays free of garbage and debris. Hang tools near your workbench so you can easily put them back in their proper place. Utilize smaller bins and storage containers for screws, nails and other small items so they don’t clutter your space.

Source: Gladiator GarageWorks

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Research Shows Four out of 10 Americans Have Lost Their Mobile Device

July 18, 2014 5:39 am

Four out of 10 U.S. consumers surveyed have suffered the loss of their mobile device, according to new research from Inhance Technology, the global leader in device protection programs for the wireless retail, insurance and loyalty industries.

Men (46 percent) are more likely to have had their smartphone or tablet lost, stolen or damaged beyond use compared to women (37 percent). Eighteen to thirty-four year olds are particularly vulnerable with 63 percent reporting loss, theft or damage.

The survey also found that 40 percent of U.S. consumers are most likely to lose their mobile device while commuting. A quarter (25 percent) are most likely to suffer loss of their mobile in a bar or night club. Eighteen percent lose their device at home.

Source: Inhance Technology

Published with permission from RISMedia.


4 Ways to Keep Homes Energy Efficient While on Vacation

July 18, 2014 5:39 am

Summer months are a popular time for many families to take a vacation. If you plan on spending time away from your home this summer, remember to prepare it for your absence. With the proper preparations you can cut electrical costs and keep your home and electronics safe while you are away.

The Energy Education Council offers these tips to help prepare your home for vacation:
  • Change thermostat settings before you leave. When temperatures are warm outside, it is unnecessary to keep your home as cool as you normally would since you will not be in it. Turn the thermostat up to a warmer temperature or turn it off entirely. If you have a programmable thermostat, you can adjust it to cool down the house just in time for your return home.
  • Unplug appliances and electronics. You will not use your computer, television, or toaster while you are away, but they will use continue to use energy and waste money if you do not unplug them. Even when appliances are turned off, many of them go into standby mode and continue to draw power. Unplug appliances and electronics to prevent phantom power draw. This also protects your electronics if there is a power surge in your absence.
  • Adjust the water heater. The water heater can account for 15 to 25 percent of the average energy bill. Water heaters continue to use energy to keep the stored water warm. Since you are not using this water while on vacation, either adjust the water heater temperature to the lowest setting, or turn it off if you will be gone for more than three days.
  • Put lights on a timer. If you plan on leaving lights on to deter burglars, set a timer. You can save money by not having lights on constantly and make it appear that people are home by varying the times the lights are on.
Additionally, there are other ways to make your home more efficient throughout the summer, not just while on vacation:
  • Clean your air conditioning unit. Blocked or dirty air filters and coils can reduce your system's ability to push and pull air through vents, so make sure to wash or replace filters. Also remove debris from around the outside unit.
  • For inside lighting, use CFL or LED bulbs. Not only do they save energy, but they also give off less heat than regular incandescent bulbs, keeping your home cooler.
  • Make sure all air leaks are sealed. Inspect caulking around windows, doors, and any openings into the home. Weather stripping and caulking will help maintain your home's temperature.
  • Close your drapes or curtains during sunny or hot days. This helps prevent the summer sun from warming up your home through the windows.
  • Clean off ceiling fans. Make sure they are circulating air in the correct direction for the season. During warm months, ceiling fans should operate in a counter-clockwise direction. This creates a cooling effect at less cost than air conditioning.
Source: Energy Education Council

Published with permission from RISMedia.