Month: August 2013

Time to start thinking about fall home maintenance projects

According to the calendar, autumn doesn’t begin until September 21. Labor Day weekend is coming up and for many of us, the holiday offers us the opportunity to prepare our homes for the coming months.

With a little preparation, planning and 24 extra hours, you can knock out some of these seasonal maintenance projects while you have time and much before it is absolutely necessary, giving you time to save the weekends for fall events, and of course, football!

  1. Check your heating system including filters, pilot lights and burners.
  2. Clean and vacuum dust from vents, baseboard heaters and cold-air returns.
  3. Now is the time to shampoo or replace carpets for the same reason.
  4. Caulking around windows and doors will lower your energy consumption during the winter months (and next summer, too).
  5. If you have a fireplace, now is the time to call a chimney sweep.
  6. Have a roofer come to inspect the roof for any damage.
  7. Check your insulation to ensure that there is enough to keep your home warm through the winter. (And cool during the summer, too.)
  8. Clean the gutters.
  9. If you have a pool, it might be time to winterize.
  10. Test the sump pump, if you have one.
  11. Pressure wash your deck, patio and/or outdoor recreation area.
  12. Change the mower blade to a mulching blade and remove the catcher in order to provide your lawn with nutrients over the winter.

You can save yourself time, headache and money by taking the opportunity to get some of these projects completed over the holiday weekend.

Still looking at a sparse, bare lawn?

Many homeowners make it their mission every spring to create the lawn that is the envy of their neighbors. You may be part of that group.

You may have visited the local lawn expert that advertises a special mix made for your location. You listened intently as he explained everything step by step. You bought stuff like fertilizer, seed, weed control and a spreader. You aerated. You put down fertilizer. You seeded and put that mesh or a layer of straw down to give those seeds the right environment to take root. You watered just the right amount twice a day, just like the expert advised.

You did everything right and now it’s late summer, but you’re still looking at bare patches or thin, sparse blades. You’re not alone there, either. Many homeowners seed in the spring hoping to see a lush green lawn sprout where thin or non-existent grass exists.

Don’t worry… You were just six months early.

Why fall is the perfect time to start a new lawn

The cooler temperatures prevent seed from drying out and there’s still enough sun and rain to help them germinate before going into hibernation for the winter. In addition, crabgrass and other weeds die off in the fall, which means there is less competition for nutrients necessary to help your new grass take hold. This will also help you control weeds in the spring because thicker grass chokes off area and nutrients necessary for weeds to take hold.

So do the same thing; just do it in September. When the grass turns green, you’ll have a thicker, lusher lawn and this spring, your neighbors will be asking for your secret to a great looking lawn.

Keeping ghosts out of your house

No, not spectral apparitions. A group of gnats is called a ghost. They show up in the late spring and don’t leave till the fall.

Gnats are a type of small fly and unlike their bloodthirsty cousin, the mosquito, do not bite humans. They feed on plants, algae and fungus, if they feed at all. (Some don’t, they just reproduce.)

In your home, gnats are most likely to be found in the kitchen, the bathroom and the basement. Why? Because those are the most likely areas where moisture will be found and gnats will not thrive without moisture. They lay eggs and their larvae grow in a moist environment.

The kitchen is a perfect environment for gnats to lay eggs and establish the makings of a new ghost. There’s ample moisture and heat, and overripe fruit such as bananas or peaches becomes a perfect opportunity for food.

If you live in a humid environment, you have a greater chance of these annoying critters trying to take up residence in your home. But you can take some steps to keep them out of your home.

  • Keep storm drains unclogged
  • Get rid of standing water on your property
  • Avoid bringing outdoor potted plants inside
  • Inspect fruits and veggies that you bring in, especially if you frequent farmers’ markets
  • Use fruit and vegetables before they go bad

If you’ve discovered gnats in the house, find the source; look in trash cans for food or liquid that’s under the bag, then take it outside, hose it out and use some light bleach water on it. Here’s what you can do to get rid of them:

  • If indoor plants become infested, let the soil dry for a few days before watering again
  • Make sure not to leave any dishes in the sink
  • Clear your garbage disposer and drop a little bleach water in it
  • Make sure the sinks and counters are dry completely
  • Throw out any fruits or veggies that are past their prime
  • Place a few dishes containing a little vinegar with tight fitting lids with holes in them. Gnats are attracted to vinegar and they’ll get in, but not be able to escape.

Gnats serve a purpose, of course, and they’re not really dangerous to humans. They’re just annoying.

9 Tips to Cool Your Home AND Save Money This Summer

With the temperature and humidity rising, there’s no doubt that we’ve entered the dog days of summer. Here are a few pieces of advice to help you cool down your home and save a little on your monthly utility bills.

Don’t forget your flue

An open flue is about the same as an open window, making your air conditioning work harder to keep your room cooler. Take a quick look and close the flue if you’ve negelected to do so.

Adjust the thermostat

There’s no reason to keep your home cooled to 72 degrees if no one is home during the day. Turn up the thermostat a few degrees when you leave in the morning. Better yet, install a programmable thermostat.

See the light

Traditional incandescent light bulbs are not energy efficient because they heat up in order to create light. Using lower watt bulbs, or new florescent bulbs, will save on energy costs and heat being introduced into the room.

Seal air leaks

Everyone thinks about winterizing their home but those same tips apply to summer as well. Sealing leaks around windows can lower your cooling costs in summer and heating costs in winter. In addition, sealing leaks in your air ducts can improve your cooling system by 20 percent, which will save you over the summer.

Change your air filter regularly

It doesn’t matter whether you have a central air system or window A/C, the air filters get dirty and make your systems work harder, which uses more energy. Change or clean your filter every three months.

Go green, literally

The air in the shade is cooler than in the sun. By strategically planting trees or bushes around your A/C unit, it will be pulling in cooler air and won’t have to work as hard to cool it once it’s inside. Also, consider planting so that your windows are in shade.

Limit the use of your oven

The oven takes a lot of time to pre-heat and puts warm air into the kitchen. Smaller appliances such as toaster ovens, crock pots and microwaves use less energy and give off less heat.

Use fans to cool a room

Ceiling fans and even inexpensive oscillating fans use less energy and move the air across your skin. Although the temperature doesn’t change, you will “feel” cooler.

Pack the fridge

The refrigerator ranks as one of the highest in energy consumption of all appliances. To help it run as energy efficiently as possible, keep it full. Keep the freezer full of ice and, better yet, frozen treats to help you stay cool, too. A full freezer uses less energy than an empty one because the existing frozen food helps the air temperature stay colder.

With these tips in mind, your home will be more energy efficient and you won’t lose your cool with high utility bills this summer.

Quickest – and least expensive – way to freshen up a room

Look around any room in your home. Is it starting to look boring and drab? Maybe even dated?

Chances are, you don’t need to buy new furniture, new décor, or even new paint. You may just need to change things up a bit.

Rearranging the furniture in your living room, for example, can change your opinion of the room and give it a new, fresh look. Here are some tips you can use for rearranging your living room.

Think about what you’re doing

You can save the sweat equity by drawing up your plans before starting. You can do this as simple as drawing your room on paper as closely to scale as possible. Graph paper works, if you happen to have any laying around. There are even some online room planners available.

Find the focal point for the room

For most of us, the television is the focal point of the living room. It doesn’t have to be. You can create a focal point on the opposing wall with art, a photo cluster or architectural element.

Create balance

Quite simply, a room with no balance isn’t appealing, and sometimes, you may not even be able to put your finger on what the problem is. By dispersing furniture and accessories of various sizes and heights throughout the room, you’ll give your room balance and visual appeal.

Find the flow

Traffic in the living room is important. You can make a large room feel cozy by arranging the furniture in a small area and using the space effectively. If your room is small, make sure there is enough room between elements to move comfortably.

Rearranging the living room can have an amazing effect on your opinion of the room. Once everything is moved, taking into consideration balance, flow and focus, you can feel as if the room is all new without spending a penny to redecorate or remodel.