•   Orillia Real Estate Info

    Each month, we publish a series of articles of interest to homeowners -- money-saving tips, household safety checklists, home improvement advice, real estate insider secrets, etc. Whether you currently are in the market for a new home, or not, we hope that this information is of value to you. Please feel free to pass these articles on to your family and friends.

    ISSUE #1214
    FEATURE REPORT

    How To Save Energy and Money at Home
    Did you know that the average family spends close to $1300 a year on their home's utility bills? Unfortunately, a large portion of that energy is wasted. By using a few inexpensive energy efficient measures, you can reduce your energy bills by 10% to 50%.
    This information shows you how easy it is to reduce your home energy use. It is a guide to easy, practical solutions for saving energy throughout your home, from the insulating system that surrounds it to the appliances and lights inside. These valuable tips will save you energy and money and, in many cases, help the environment by reducing pollution and conserving our natural resources.




    Also This Month...
    9 Buyer Traps and How to Avoid Them
    No matter which way you look at it buying a home is a major investment. But for many homebuyers, it can be an even more expensive process than it needs to be because many fall prey to at least a few of the many common and costly mistakes which trap them.



     
     

    Protecting Your Home from Fire and Carbon Monoxide
    Thousands of people die from fire every year. Most residential fire deaths occur because of inhalation of toxic gas, rather than contact with the flames. The tragedy is that many of these deaths could be prevented by taking a few precautions.



    Quick Links
    How To Save Energy and Money at Home
    9 Buyer Traps and How to Avoid Them
    Protecting Your Home from Fire and Carbon Monoxide
     

     

    Top>>

    How To Save Energy and Money at Home

    Did you know that the average family spends close to $1300 a year on their home's utility bills? Unfortunately, a large portion of that energy is wasted. By using a few inexpensive energy efficient measures, you can reduce your energy bills by 10% to 50% and, at the same time, help reduce air pollution.

    The key to achieving these savings is a whole house energy efficiency plan. To take a whole house approach, view your home as an energy system with interdependent parts. For example, your heating system is not just a furnace, it's a heat delivery system that starts at the furnace and delivers heat throughout your home using a network of ducts. You may have a top-of-the-line, energy efficient furnace, but if the ducts leak and are uninsulated, and your walls, attic, windows, and doors are uninsulated, your energy bills will remain high. Taking a whole house approach to saving energy ensures that dollars you invest in energy efficiency are wisely spent.

    This information shows you how easy it is to reduce your home energy use. It is a guide to easy, practical solutions for saving energy throughout your home, from the insulating system that surrounds it to the appliances and lights inside. These valuable tips will save you energy and money and, in many cases, help the environment by reducing pollution and conserving our natural resources.

    The first step to taking a whole house energy efficiency approach is to find out which parts of your house use the most energy. A home energy audit will show you where these are and suggest the most effective measures for reducing your energy costs. You can conduct a simple home energy audit yourself, you can contact your local utility, or you can call an independent energy auditor for a more comprehensive examination.

    Energy Auditing Tips

    • Check the level of insulation in your exterior and basement walls, ceilings, attic, floors, and crawl spaces.
    • Check for holes or cracks around your walls, ceilings, windows, doors, light and plumbing fixtures, switches, and electrical outlets that can leak air into or out of your home.
    • Check for open fireplace dampers.
    • Make sure your appliances and heating and cooling systems are properly maintained.
    • Study your family's lighting needs and use patterns, paying special attention to high use areas such as the living room, kitchen, and exterior lighting. Look for ways to use daylight, reduce the time the lights are on, and replace incandescent bulbs and fixtures with compact fluorescent lamps or standard fluorescent lamps.

    Formulating Your Plan

    After you have identified places where your home is losing energy, assign priorities to your energy needs by asking yourself a few important questions:

    How much money do you spend on energy?
    Where are your greatest energy losses?
    How long will it take for an investment in energy efficiency to pay for itself in energy savings?
    Can you do the job yourself, or will you need to hire a contractor?
    What is your budget and how much time do you have to spend on maintenance and repair?

    Once you assign priorities to your energy needs, you can form a whole house efficiency plan. Your plan will provide you with a strategy for making smart purchases and home improvements that maximize energy efficiency and save the most money.

    Another option is to get the advice of a professional. Many utilities conduct energy audits for free or for a nominal charge. For a fee, a professional contractor will analyze how your home's energy systems work together as a system and compare the analysis against your utility bills. He or she will use a variety of equipment such as blower doors, infrared cameras, and surface thermometers to find inefficiencies that cannot be detected by a visual inspection. Finally, they will give you a list of recommendations for cost effective energy improvements and enhanced comfort and safety.

    Insulation

    Checking your home's insulating system is one of the fastest and most cost efficient ways to use a whole house approach to reduce energy waste and maximize your energy dollars. A good insulating system includes a combination of products and construction techniques that provide a home with thermal performance, protect it against air infiltration, and control moisture. You can increase the comfort of your home while reducing your heating and cooling needs by up to 30% by investing just a few hundred dollars in proper insulation and weatherization products.

    Insulation Tips

    • Consider factors such as your climate, building design, and budget when selecting insulation R-value for your home.
    • Use higher density insulation, such as rigid foam boards, in cathedral ceilings and on exterior walls.
    • Ventilation plays a large role in providing moisture control and reducing summer cooling bills. Install attic vents to help make sure that there is one inch of ventilation space between the insulation and roof shingles. Attic vents can be installed along the entire ceiling cavity to help ensure proper airflow from the soffit to the attic, helping to make a home more comfortable and energy efficient.
    • Do not block vents with insulation, and keep insulation at least 3 inches away from recessed lighting fixtures or other heat producing equipment unless it is marked "I.C." - designed for direct insulation contact.
    • The easiest and most cost effective way to insulate your home is to add insulation in the attic. To find out if you have enough attic insulation, measure the thickness of insulation. If there is less than R-19 (6 inches of fiber glass or rock wool or 5 inches of cellulose) you could probably benefit by adding more. Most homes should have between R-19 and R-49 insulation in the attic.
    • If your attic has ample insulation and your home still feels drafty and cold in the winter or too warm in the summer, chances are you need to add insulation to the exterior walls as well. This is a more expensive measure that usually requires a contractor, but it may be worth the cost if you live in a very hot or cold climate.

    Weatherization

    Warm air leaking into your home during the summer and out of your home during the winter can waste a substantial portion of your energy dollars. One of the quickest dollar-saving tasks you can do is caulk, seal, and weather strip all seams, cracks, and openings to the outside. You can save 10% or more on your energy bill by reducing the air leaks in your home.

    Sources of Air Leaks in Your Home

    1. Dropped Ceiling 9. Chimney penetration
    2. Recessed light 10. Warm air register
    3. Attic entrance 11. Window sashes & frames
    4. Electric wires & box 12. Baseboards, coves, interior trim
    5. Plumbing utilities & penetration    13. Plumbing access panel
    6. Water & furnace flues 14. Electrical outlets & switches
    7. All ducts 15. Light fixtures
    8. Door sashes & frames  

    Heating and Cooling

    Heating and cooling your home uses more energy and drains more energy dollars than any other system in your home. No matter what kind of heating, ventilation, and air conditioning system you have in your house, you can save money and increase comfort by properly maintaining and upgrading your equipment. By combining proper equipment maintenance and upgrades with appropriate insulation, weatherization, and thermostat settings, you can cut your energy bills and your pollution output in half.

    Heating Tips

    • Set your thermostat as low as is comfortable.
    • Clean or replace filters on furnaces once a month or as needed.
    • Clean warm air registers, baseboard heaters, and radiators as needed; make sure they're not blocked by furniture, carpeting, or drapes.
    • Bleed trapped air from hot water radiators once or twice a season; if in doubt about how to perform this task, call a professional.
    • Place heat resistant radiator reflectors between exterior walls and the radiators.
    • Use kitchen, bath, and other ventilating fans wisely; in just 1 hour, these fans can pull out a houseful of warmed or cooled air. Turn fans off as soon as they have done the job.
    • Keep draperies and shades open on south facing windows during the heating season to allow sunlight to enter your home; close them at night to reduce the chill you may feel from cold windows.
    • Close an unoccupied room that is isolated from the rest of the house, such as in a corner, and turn down the thermostat or turn off the heating for that room or zone. However, do not turn the heating off if it adversely affects the rest of your system. For example, if you heat your house with a heat pump, do not close the vents - closing the vents could harm the heat pump.
    • Select energy efficient equipment when you buy new heating equipment. Your contractor should be able to give you energy fact sheets for different types, models, and designs to help you compare energy usage.

    Heat Pumps

    Heat pumps are the most efficient form of electric heating in moderate climates, providing three times more heating than the equivalent amount of energy they consume in electricity. There are three types of heat pumps: air-to-air, water source, and ground source. They collect heat from the air, water, or ground outside your home and concentrate it for use inside. Heat pumps do double duty as a central air conditioner. They can also cool your home by collecting the heat inside your house and effectively pumping it outside. A heat pump can trim the amount of electricity you use for heating as much as 30% to 40%.

    Heat Pump Tips
    • Do not set back the heat pump's thermostat manually if it causes the electric resistance heating to come on. This type of heating, which is often used as a backup to the heat pump, is more expensive.
    • Clean or change filters once a month or as needed, and maintain the system according to manufacturer's instructions.

    Solar Heating

    Using the sun to heat your home through passive solar design can be both environmentally friendly and cost effective. In many cases, you can cut your heating costs by more than 50% compared to the cost of heating the same house that does not include passive solar design. Passive solar design techniques include placing larger, insulated windows on south facing walls and locating thermal mass, such as a concrete slab floor or a heat absorbing wall, close to the windows. However, a passive solar house requires careful design, best done by an architect for new construction or major remodeling.

    Solar Tips
    • Keep all south facing glass clean.
    • Make sure that objects do not block the sunlight shining on concrete slab floors or heat-absorbing walls.
    • Consider using insulating curtains to reduce excessive heat loss from large windows at night.

    Fireplaces

    When you cozy up next to a crackling fire on a cold winter day, you probably don't realize that your fireplace is one of the most inefficient heat sources you can possibly use. It literally sends your energy dollars right up the chimney along with volumes of warm air. A roaring fire can exhaust as much as 24,000 cubic feet of air per hour to the outside, which must be replaced by cold air coming into the house from the outside. Your heating system must warm up this air, which is then exhausted through your chimney. If you use your conventional fireplace while your central heating system is on, these tips can help reduce energy losses.

    Fireplace Tips
    • If you never use your fireplace, plug and seal the chimney flue.
    • Keep your fireplace damper closed unless a fire is going. Keeping the damper open is like keeping a 48-inch window wide open during the winter; it allows warm air to go right up the chimney.
    • When you use the fireplace, reduce heat loss by opening dampers in the bottom of the firebox (if provided) or open the nearest window slightly, approximately 1 inch, and close doors leading into the room. Lower the thermostat setting to between 50 and 55°F.
    • Install tempered glass doors and a heat air exchange system that blows warmed air back into the room.
    • Check the seal on the flue damper and make it as snug as possible.
    • Add caulking around the fireplace hearth.
    • Use grates made of C-shaped metal tubes to draw cool room air into the fireplace and circulate warm air back into the room.

    Air Conditioners

    It might surprise you to know that buying a bigger room air conditioning unit won't necessarily make you feel more comfortable during the hot summer months. In fact, a room air conditioner that's too big for the area it is supposed to cool will perform less efficiently and less effectively than a smaller, properly sized unit. This is because room units work better if they run for relatively long periods of time than if they are continually, switching off and on. Longer run times allow air conditioners to maintain a more constant room temperature. Running longer also allows them to remove a larger amount of moisture from the air, which lowers humidity and, more importantly, makes you feel more comfortable.

    Sizing is equally important for central air conditioning systems, which need to be sized by professionals. If you have a central air system in your home, set the fan to shut off at the same time as the cooling unit (compressor). In other words, don't use the system's central fan to provide circulation, but instead use circulating fans in individual rooms.

    Cooling Tips

    • Whole house fans help cool your home by pulling cool air through the house and exhausting warm air through the attic. They are effective when operated at night and when the outside air is cooler than the inside.
    • Set your thermostat as high as comfortably possible in the summer. The less difference between the indoor and outdoor temperatures, the lower your overall cooling bill will be.
    • Don't set your thermostat at a colder setting than normal when you turn on your air conditioner. It will not cool your home any faster and could result in excessive cooling and, therefore, unnecessary expense.
    • Set the fan speed on high except in very humid weather. When it's humid, set the fan speed on low. You'll get better cooling, and slower air movement through the cooling equipment allows it to remove more moisture from the air, resulting in greater comfort.
    • Consider using an interior fan in conjunction with your window air conditioner to spread the cooled air more effectively through your home without greatly increasing your power use.
    • Don't place lamps or TV sets near your air conditioning thermostat. The thermostat senses heat from these appliances, which can cause the air conditioner to run longer than necessary.
    • Plant trees or shrubs to shade air conditioning units but not to block the airflow. A unit operating in the shade uses as much as 10% less electricity than the same one operating in the sun.

    Programmable Thermostats

    You can save as much as 10% a year on your heating and cooling bills by simply turning your thermostat back 10% to 15% for 8 hours. You can do this automatically without sacrificing comfort by installing an automatic setback or programmable thermostat.

    Using a programmable thermostat, you can adjust the times you turn on the heating or air conditioning according to a preset schedule. As a result, you don't operate the equipment as much when you are asleep or when the house or part of the house is not occupied. (These thermostats are not meant to be used with heat pumps.) Programmable thermostats can store and repeat multiple daily settings (six or more temperature settings a day) that you can manually override without affecting the rest of the daily or weekly program

    Ducts

    Your home's duct system is one of the most important systems in your home, and may be wasting a lot of your energy dollars. It is a branching network of tubes in the walls, floors, and ceilings, carries the air from your home's furnace and central air conditioner to each room.

    Unfortunately, many duct systems are poorly insulated or not insulated properly. Ducts that leak heated air into unheated spaces can add hundreds of dollars a year to your heating and cooling bills. Insulating ducts that are in unconditioned spaces is usually very cost effective. If you are buying a new duct system, consider one that comes with insulation already installed.

    Sealing your ducts to prevent leaks is even more important if the ducts are located in an unconditioned area such as an attic or vented crawl space. If the supply ducts are leaking, heated or cooled air can be forced out unsealed joints and lost.

    Although minor duct repairs are easy to accomplish, ducts in unconditioned spaces should be sealed and insulated by qualified professionals using the appropriate sealing materials. Here are a few simple tips to help with minor duct repairs.

    Duct Tips
    • Check your ducts for air leaks. First look for sections that should be joined but have separated and then look for obvious holes.
    • If you use duct tape to repair and seal your ducts, look for tape with the Underwriters Laboratories (UL) logo to avoid tape that degrades, cracks, and loses its bond with age.
    • Remember that insulating ducts in the basement will make the basement colder. If both the ducts and the basement walls are un-insulated, consider insulating the basement walls and the ducts.
    • If your basement has been converted to a living area, install both supply and return registers in the basement rooms.
    • Be sure a well sealed vapor barrier exists on the outside of the insulation on cooling ducts to prevent moisture build up.
    • Get a professional to help you insulate and repair all ducts.

    Water Heating

    Water heating is the third largest energy expense in your home. It typically accounts for about 14% of your utility bill.

    There are four ways to cut your water heating bills: use less hot water, turn down the thermostat on your water heater, insulate your water heater, and buy a new, more efficient water heater. A family of four, each showering for 5 minutes a day, uses 700 gallons of water a week; this is enough for a 3-year supply of drinking water for one person. You can cut that amount in half simply by using low-flow showerheads and faucets.

    Water Heating Tips
    • Repair leaky faucets promptly; a leaky faucet wastes gallons of water in a short period.
    • Insulate your electric hot water storage tank and pipes, but be careful not to cover the thermostat.
    • Insulate your gas or oil hot water storage tank and pipes, but be careful not to cover the water heater's floor, top, thermostat, or burner compartment; when in doubt, get professional help.
    • Install aerators in faucets and low flow showerheads.
    • Buy a new water heater with a thick, insulating shell; while it may cost more initially than one without insulation, the energy savings will continue during the lifetime of the appliance.
    • Although most water heaters last 10-15 years, it's best to start shopping for a new one if yours is more than 7 years old. Doing some research before your heater fails will enable you to select one that most appropriately meets your needs.
    • Lower the thermostat on your water heater; water heaters at a setting of 115°F provide comfortable hot water for most uses.

    Water Heater

    • Insulate your water heater to save energy and money.
    • Drain a quart of water from your water tank every 3 months to remove sediment that impedes heat transfer and lowers the efficiency of your heater.
    • Take more showers than baths. Bathing uses the most hot water in the average household. You use 15­25 gallons of hot water for a bath, but less than 10 gallons during a 5-minute shower.
    • If you heat with electricity and live in a warm and sunny climate, consider installing a solar water heater. The solar units are environmentally friendly and can now be installed on your roof to blend with the architecture of your house.
    Solar Water Heaters

    If you heat with electricity and you have a non-shaded, south-facing location (such as a roof) on your property, consider installing a solar water heater. Solar water heating systems are also good for the environment. Solar water heaters avoid the harmful greenhouse gas emissions associated with electricity production. During a 20 year period, one solar water heater can avoid over 50 tons of carbon dioxide emissions.

    Windows

    Windows can be one of your home's most attractive features. Windows provide views, daylight, ventilation, and solar heating in the winter. Unfortunately, they can also account for 10% to 25% of your heating bill. During the summer, sunny windows make your air conditioner work two to three times harder. If you live in the Sun Belt, look into new solar control spectrally selective windows, which can cut the cooling load by more than half.

    If your home has single pane windows, as almost half of homes do, consider replacing them. New double pane windows with high performance glass (e.g., low-e or spectrally selective) are available on the market. In colder climates, select windows that are gas filled with low emissivity ( low-e) coatings on the glass to reduce heat loss. In warmer climates, select windows with spectrally selective coatings to reduce heat gain. If you are building a new home, you can offset some of the cost of installing more efficient windows because doing so allows you to buy smaller, less expensive heating and cooling equipment.

    Cold-Climate Window Tips
    • Install exterior or interior storm windows; storm windows can reduce your heat loss through the windows by 25% to 50%. Storm windows should have weather stripping at all moveable joints; be made of strong, durable materials; and have interlocking or overlapping joints. Low-e storm windows save even more energy.
    • Install tight fitting, insulating window shades on windows that feel drafty after weatherizing.
    • Close your curtains and shades at night; open them during the day.
    • Keep windows on the south side of your house clean to maximize solar gain.
    Warm-Climate Window Tips
    • Install white window shades, drapes, or blinds to reflect heat away from the house.
    • Close curtains on south and west facing windows.
    • Install awnings on south and west facing windows.
    • Apply sun control or other reflective films on south-facing windows to reduce solar gain.

    Landscaping

    Landscaping is a natural and beautiful way to keep your home more comfortable and reduce your energy bills. In addition to adding aesthetic value and environmental quality to your home, a well placed tree, shrub, or vine can deliver effective shade, act as a windbreak, and reduce overall energy bills.

    Carefully positioned trees can save up to 25% of a typical household's energy for heating and cooling. Properly placed trees around the house, can save an average household between $100 and $250 in heating and cooling energy costs annually.

    During the summer months, the most effective way to keep your home cool is to prevent the heat from building up in the first place. A primary source of heat buildup is sunlight absorbed by your home's roof, walls, and windows. Dark colored home exteriors absorb 70% to 90% of the radiant energy from the sun that strikes the home's surfaces. Some of this absorbed energy is then transferred into your home by way of conduction, resulting in heat gain inside the house. In contrast, light colored surfaces effectively reflect most of the heat away from your home. Landscaping can also help block and absorb the sun's energy to help decrease heat build up in your home by providing shade and evaporative cooling.

    Lighting

    Increasing your lighting efficiency is one of the fastest ways to decrease your energy bills. If you replace 25% of your lights in high use areas with fluorescents, you can save about 50% of your lighting energy bill.

    Indoor Lighting

    Use linear fluorescent and energy efficient compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) in fixtures throughout your home to provide high quality and high efficiency lighting. Fluorescent lamps are much more efficient than incandescent bulbs and last 6 to 10 times longer.

    Indoor Lighting Tips
    • Turn off the lights in any room you're not using, or consider installing timers, photo cells, or occupancy sensors to reduce the amount of time your lights are on.
    • Use task lighting; instead of brightly lighting an entire room, focus the light where you need it. For example, use fluorescent under cabinet lighting for kitchen sinks and countertops under cabinets.
    • Consider three way lamps; they make it easier to keep lighting levels low when brighter light is not necessary.
    • Use 4-foot fluorescent fixtures with reflective backing and electronic ballasts for your workroom, garage, and laundry areas.
    • Consider using 4 watt mini fluorescent or electro luminescent night lights. Both lights are much more efficient than their incandescent counterparts. The luminescent lights are cool to the touch.
    • Use CFLs in all the portable table and floor lamps in your home.
    • For spot lighting, consider CFLs with reflectors. The lamps range in wattage from 13 watt to 32 watt and provide a very directed light using a reflector and lens system.
    • Take advantage of daylight by using light colored, loose weave curtains on your windows to allow daylight to penetrate the room while preserving privacy. Also, decorate with lighter colors that reflect daylight.

    Outdoor Lighting

    Many homeowners use outdoor lighting for decoration and security. When shopping for outdoor lights, you will find a variety of products, from low-voltage pathway lighting to high sodium motion detector floodlights. Some stores also carry lights powered by small photovoltaic (PV) modules that convert sunlight directly into electricity; consider PV-powered lights for areas that are not close to an existing power supply line.

    Outdoor Lighting Tips
    • Use outdoor lights with a photocell unit or a timer so they will turn off during the day.
    • Turn off decorative outdoor gas lamps; just eight gas lamps burning year round use as much natural gas as it takes to heat an average size home during an entire winter.
    • Exterior lighting is one of the best places to use CFLs because of their long life. If you live in a cold climate, be sure to buy a lamp with a cold-weather ballast.

    Appliances

    Appliances account for about 20% of your household's energy consumption, with refrigerators and clothes dryers at the top of the consumption list.

    When you're shopping for appliances, you can think of two price tags. The first one covers the purchase price - think of it as a down payment. The second price tag is the cost of operating the appliance during its lifetime. You'll be paying on that second price tag every month with your utility bill for the next 10 to 20 years, depending on the appliance. Refrigerators last an average of 20 years; room air conditioners and dishwashers, about 10 years each; clothes washers, about 14 years.

    Dishwashers

    Most of the energy used by a dishwasher is for water heating. The Energy Guide label estimates how much power is needed per year to run the appliance and to heat the water based on the yearly cost of gas and electric water heating.

    Dishwasher Tips
    • Check the manual that came with your dishwasher for the manufacturer's recommendations on water temperature; many have internal heating elements that allow you to set the water heater to a lower temperature.
    • Scrape, don't rinse, off large food pieces and bones. Soaking or prewashing is generally only recommended in cases of burned on or dried on food.
    • Be sure your dishwasher is full, but not overloaded.
    • Don't use the "rinse hold" on your machine for just a few soiled dishes. It uses 3 to 7 gallons of hot water each time you use it.
    • Let your dishes air dry; if you don't have an automatic air dry switch, turn off the control knob after the final rinse and prop the door open a little so the dishes will dry faster.
    • Remember that dishwashers use less water than washing dishes by hand, about 6 gallons less per load; dishwashers also use hotter water than you would use if you were washing the dishes by hand, so they can do a better job of killing germs.

    Refrigerators

    Refrigerator Choices

    Refrigerators with the freezer on top are more efficient than those with freezers on the side.

    The Energy Guide label on new refrigerators will tell you how much electricity in kilowatt hours (kWh) a particular model uses in one year. The smaller the number, the less energy the refrigerator uses and the less it will cost you to operate.

    Refrigerator/Freezer Energy Tips
    • Look for a refrigerator with automatic moisture control. Models with this feature have been engineered to prevent moisture accumulation on the cabinet exterior without the addition of a heater. This is not the same thing as an "anti sweat" heater. Models with an anti sweat heater will consume 5% to 10% more energy than models without this feature.
    • Don't keep your refrigerator or freezer too cold. Recommended temperatures are 37° to 40°F for the fresh food compartment of the refrigerator and 5°F for the freezer section. If you have a separate freezer for long term storage, it should be kept at 0°F.
    • To check refrigerator temperature, place an appliance thermometer in a glass of water in the center of the refrigerator. Read it after 24 hours. To check the freezer temperature, place a thermometer between frozen packages. Read it after 24 hours.
    • Regularly defrost manual defrost refrigerators and freezers; frost build up increases the amount of energy needed to keep the motor running. Don't allow frost to build up more than one quarter of an inch.
    • Make sure your refrigerator door seals are airtight. Test them by closing the door over a piece of paper or a dollar bill so it is half in and half out of the refrigerator. If you can pull the paper or bill out easily, the latch may need adjustment or the seal may need replacing.
    • Cover liquids and wrap foods stored in the refrigerator. Uncovered foods release moisture and make the compressor work harder.
    • Move your refrigerator out from the wall and vacuum its condenser coils once a year unless you have a no clean condenser model. Your refrigerator will run for shorter periods with clean coils.

    Other Energy-Saving Kitchen Tips

    • Be sure to place the faucet lever on the kitchen sink in the cold position when using small amounts of water; placing the lever in the hot position uses energy to heat the water even though it never reaches the faucet.
    • If you need to purchase a gas oven or range, look for one with an automatic, electric ignition system. An electric ignition saves gas - typically 41% in the oven and 53% on the top burners - because a pilot light is not burning continuously.
    • In gas appliances, look for blue flames; yellow flames indicate the gas is burning inefficiently and an adjustment may be needed.
    • Keep range top burners and reflectors clean; they will reflect the heat better, and you will save energy.
    • Use a covered kettle or pan to boil water; it's faster and it uses less energy.
    • Match the size of the pan to the heating element.
    • If you cook with electricity, turn the stovetop burners off several minutes before the allotted cooking time. The heating element will stay hot long enough to finish the cooking without using more electricity. The same principle applies to oven cooking.
    • Use small electric pans or toaster ovens for small meals rather than your large stove or oven. A toaster oven uses a third to half as much energy as a full-sized oven.
    • Use pressure cookers and microwave ovens whenever it is convenient to do so. They can save energy by significantly reducing cooking time.

    Laundry

    About 80% to 85% of the energy used for washing clothes is for heating the water. There are two ways to reduce the amount of energy used for washing clothes - use less water and use cooler water. Unless you're dealing with oily stains, the warm or cold water setting on your machine will generally do a good job of cleaning your clothes. Switching your temperature setting from hot to warm can cut a load's energy use in half.

    When shopping for a new washer, look for a front loading (horizontal axis) machine. This machine may cost more to buy but uses about a third of the energy and less water than a top loading machine. With a front loader, you'll also save more on clothes drying, because they remove more water from your clothes during the spin cycle.

    When shopping for a new clothes dryer, look for one with a moisture sensor that automatically shuts off the machine when your clothes are dry. Not only will this save energy, it will save wear and tear on your clothes caused by over drying. Keep in mind that gas dryers are less expensive to operate than electric dryers. The cost of drying a typical load of laundry in an electric dryer is 30 to 40 cents compared to 15 to 25 cents in a gas dryer.

    Laundry Tips

    • Wash your clothes in cold water using cold water detergents whenever possible.
    • Wash and dry full loads. If you are washing a small load, use the appropriate water-level setting.
    • Dry towels and heavier cottons in a separate load from lighter weight clothes.
    • Don't over dry your clothes. If your machine has a moisture sensor, use it.
    • Clean the lint filter in the dryer after every load to improve air circulation.
    • Use the cool down cycle to allow the clothes to finish drying with the residual heat in the dryer.

     

     

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    9 Buyer Traps and How to Avoid Them


    " A systemized approach to the homebuying process can help you steer clear of these common traps, allowing you to not only cut costs, but also secure the home that’s best for you."


    No matter which way you look at it buying a home is a major investment. But for many homebuyers, it can be an even more expensive process than it needs to be because many fall prey to at least a few of the many common and costly mistakes which trap them into either:

    • paying too much for the home they want, or
    • losing their dream home to another buyer or,
    • (worse) buying the wrong home for their needs.

    A systemized approach to the homebuying process can help you steer clear of these common traps, allowing you to not only cut costs, but also secure the home that’s best for you.

    9 Buyer Traps

    This important report discusses the 9 most common and costly of these homebuyer traps, how to identify them, and what you can do to avoid them:

    1. Bidding Blind

    What price should you offer when you bid on a home? Is the seller’s asking price too high, or does it represent a great deal. If you fail to research the market in order to understand what comparable homes are selling for, making your offer would be like bidding blind. Without this knowledge of market value, you could easily bid too much, or fail to make a competitive offer at all on an excellent value.

    2. Buying the Wrong Home

    What are you looking for in a home? A simple enough question, but the answer can be quite complex. More than one buyer has been swept up in the emotion and excitement of the buying process only to find themselves the owner of a home that is either too big or too small. Maybe they’re stuck with a longer than desired commute to work, or a dozen more fix-ups than they really want to deal with now that the excitement has died down. Take the time upfront to clearly define your wants and needs. Put it in writing and then use it as a yard stick with which to measure every home you look at.

    3. Unclear Title

    Make sure very early on in the negotiation that you will own your new home free and clear by having a title search completed. The last thing you want to discover when you’re in the back stretch of a transaction is that there are encumbrances on the property such as tax liens, undisclosed owners, easements, leases or the like.

    4. Inaccurate Survey

    As part of your offer to purchase, make sure you request an updated property survey which clearly marks your boundaries. If the survey is not current, you may find that there are structural changes that are not shown (e.g. additions to the house, a new swimming pool, a neighbor’s new fence which is extending a boundary line, etc.). Be very clear on these issues.

    5. Undisclosed Fix-ups

    Don’t expect every seller to own up to every physical detail that will need to be attended to. Both you and the seller are out to maximize your investment. Ensure that you conduct a thorough inspection of the home early in the process. Consider hiring an independent inspector to objectively view the home inside and out, and make the final contract contingent upon this inspector’s report. This inspector should be able to give you a report of any item that needs to be fixed with associated, approximate cost.

    6. Not Getting Mortgage Pre-approval

    Pre-approval is fast, easy and free. When you have a pre-approved mortgage, you can shop for your home with a greater sense of freedom and security, knowing that the money will be there when you find the home of your dreams.

    7. Contract Misses

    If a seller fails to comply to the letter of the contract by neglecting to attend to some repair issues, or changing the spirit of the agreement in some way, this could delay the final closing and settlement. Agree ahead of time on a dollar amount for an escrow fund to cover items that the seller fails to follow through on. Prepare a list of agreed issues, walk through them, and check them off one by one.

    8. Hidden Costs

    Make sure you identify and uncover all costs - large and small -far enough ahead of time. When a transaction closes, you will sometimes find fees for this or that sneaking through after the "sub"-total - fees such as loan disbursement charges, underwriting fees etc. Understand these in advance by having your lender project total charges for you in writing.

    9. Rushing the Closing

    Take your time during this critical part of the process, and insist on seeing all paperwork the day before you sign. Make sure this documentation perfectly reflects your understanding of the transaction, and that nothing has been added or subtracted. Is the interest rate right? Is everything covered? If you rush this process on the day of closing, you may run into a last minute snag that you can’t fix without compromising the terms of the deal, the financing, or even the sale itself.

     


     

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    Protecting Your Home from Fire and Carbon Monoxide

    Safety & You

    Everyone wants to live in a safe and worry free environment with their families, spouse, and children. However, most people are closer to a disaster waiting to happen than they think. Safety may not be an issue that comes to mind as you go about your daily routine. You may feel safe. Yet, lurking in your home are dangers that can take lives and destroy property.

    Fire Facts

    Thousands of people die from fire every year. Most residential fire deaths occur because of inhalation of toxic gas, rather than contact with the flames. The tragedy is that many of these deaths could be prevented by taking a few precautions.

    General Fire Prevention Tips

    • Do not plug too many appliances into an electrical outlet.
    • Make sure that combustibles are not too close to heaters, stoves and fireplaces.
    • Never smoke in bed, or leave a burning cigarette in an ashtray.
    • Do not use damaged or frayed electrical cords or extension cords.
    • Keep matches and lighters out of the reach of children.
    • Teach your children about the dangers of playing with fire.
    • Never use extension cords with heating or air conditioning equipment.
    • Purchase smoke alarms and fire extinguishers for each floor of your home.

    Have an Emergency Escape Plan! Practice it frequently!

    • Develop an emergency exit plan and an alternate exit plan. The most obvious way out may be blocked by fire. A window will usually be the second way out of a bedroom. Make sure that screens or storm windows can be easily removed. If you live in a two story home, you should have an escape ladder for each occupied bedroom. Escape ladders are available for purchase, and they can easily be stored under a bed or in a closet.
    • Establish a meeting place outside your home to be sure everyone has escaped. Every family member should participate in practicing escape drills at least two times per year.
    • In the event of fire, do not stop to get dressed or gather valuables. Seconds count - do not search for the family pet.
    • Teach your family that in a fire they must stay low to the floor to avoid smoke and intense heat. Passageways may be completely filled with dense smoke, so everyone should practice exiting on their hands and knees while blindfolded.
    • Train family members to feel a closed door before exiting. If the door is warm, open it slowly, and close it quickly if heat or smoke rushes in.
    • Establish a rule that once you're out, you never re-enter under any circumstances. As soon as two people have reached the meeting place, one should call 911 from a neighbor's house.

    Smoke Alarms

    Through education and media campaigns, most people now realize the importance of smoke alarms, and most homes in North America have them.

    Recommendations:
    • Purchase a smoke alarm for every floor of your home, and read the instructions on how to use it and where to position it.
    • Smoke alarms should be placed near bedrooms, either on the ceiling or six to twelve inches below the ceiling on the wall.
    • Local codes may require additional alarms. Check with your fire department or building code official.
    • Locate smoke alarms away from air vents.
    • Test your alarms regularly to ensure that they still work.
    • If you have a battery powered alarm, change the battery every six months when you change your clocks.
    • For maximum protection, install BOTH ionization and photoelectric smoke alarms in the home for the optimum detection of fast flaming fires and slow smoldering fires.

    Fire Extinguishers

    To guard against small fires or to keep a small fire from developing into a big one, every home should be equipped with a fire extinguisher. Because almost all fires are small at first, they might be contained if a fire extinguisher is handy and used properly. You should take care, however, to select the right kind of fire extinguisher, because there are different ones for different kinds of fires. Install fire extinguishers on every level of the home and include the kitchen, basement and garage.

    Selecting a Fire Extinguisher

    Extinguishers are classified according to the class of fire for which they are suitable. The four classes of fires are A, B, C, D:

    • Class A fires involve common combustibles such as wood, paper, cloth, rubber, trash and plastics. They are common in typical commercial and home settings.
    • Class B fires involve flammable liquids, solvents, oil, gasoline, paints, lacquers and other oil-based products. Class B fires often spread rapidly. Unless they are properly suppressed, they can re-flash after the flames have been extinguished.
    • Class C fires involve energized equipment such as wiring, controls, motors, machinery or appliances. They can be caused by a spark, a power surge, or a short circuit and typically occur in locations that may be difficult to see or reach.
    • Class D fires involve combustible metals.

    A typical home or office fire extinguisher should have an ABC rating.

    Carbon Monoxide

    One of the greatest threats to your safety is the quality of air within your home. Carbon monoxide (CO) is a subtle yet dangerous threat because the gas is colorless, odorless and tasteless.

    Each year, hundreds of people die from carbon monoxide poisoning. Thousands of other people suffer the effects of the gas without realizing it. Because CO symptoms mimic the flu and other common illnesses, CO poisoning can be easily missed during a routine medical examination.

    CO is produced when any fuel does not burn completely because of insufficient oxygen. Mild exposure to CO gives most people a slight headache, nausea, vomiting, fatigue ("flu-like" symptoms) followed by a throbbing headache, drowsiness, confusion, and fast heart rate. If the entire family becomes ill after a few hours in the home, and feels better when they leave the home, carbon monoxide poisoning should be suspected.

    Possible sources of CO include:

    • Furnace or boiler
    • Gas or fuel-oil water heater
    • Gas or wood fireplace
    • Gas kitchen range
    • Plugged, rusted, disconnected, or defective chimneys or vents
    • Back drafting of combustion gases into the home
    • Automobiles in attached garages

    Certain clues can indicate a carbon monoxide problem. Check to see if you have any of the following:

    • Rusting or streaking on chimney or vent
    • Loose or missing furnace panel
    • Soot on venting or appliances
    • Loose or disconnected venting
    • Debris or soot falling from chimney
    • Moisture on interior side of windows

    CO can be produced and spill into your home without any of the preceding clues present. Heating appliances that appear to be operating correctly can still be sources of CO. Burning charcoal or wood produces CO that can spill into the home. Gasoline engines, when first started, produce large amounts of CO. Autos in attached garages are often sources of CO.

    How To Protect Yourself

    To avoid CO exposure in the home, it is important to:

    • Make sure heating appliances are installed and used in accordance with manufacturer's instructions.
    • Make sure chimneys and vents draw all gases out of the home.
    • Have the heating system, chimney and vents inspected and serviced annually by a qualified heating contractor.
    • Never use charcoal grills indoors.
    • Never heat your home with a gas kitchen range.
    • Always use a kitchen range hood, vented to the outdoors, when cooking on a gas range.
    • Never warm-up or run vehicles or other gasoline engines in garages or indoors.

    The Consumer Product Safety Commission recommends that every residence with fuel burning appliances be equipped with at least one CO alarm. For added protection, place one on every level of the home. Read and follow manufacturers' instructions.

    If your alarm indicates high levels of carbon monoxide in your home:

    • Immediately move outdoors to fresh air and do a head count
    • Call your emergency services
    • Do not re-enter the home until emergency service responders have arrived, aired out the house, and determined it is safe to re-enter
    • Correct the problem before starting the heating appliances
    • If a carbon monoxide alarm sounds again, repeat the above steps. Do not ignore alarms.

    Fires are traumatizing and frightening, as is a carbon monoxide incident. It is essential to fully recognize the hazards of fire and carbon monoxide poisoning and to take preventative action. A regular home inspection, smoke and carbon monoxide alarms, fire extinguishers and an emergency exit plan will help you and your family live more safely.

     

     

     

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