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How to Save the Most When You're the Holiday Host...

by The Cathy Russell Team

 

From our friends at Home Warranty of America...

Celebrating your first holiday season in your new home is a special milestone. We hope that this year is exceptionally memorable. However, all the necessary tasks such as cooking, baking, heating, lighting, and cleaning can run up your bills faster than Black Friday shopping. That's why HWA is dishing up several of the best ways to conserve your home's energy this holiday season.



1. Kill two birds with one oven. As we all know, holiday season centers around delicious, home-cooked food. Try cooking as many dishes in the oven at once - reheating and readjusting the oven zaps energy.

2. Be the dishwasher. Make the post holiday meal a time to bond over the sink. You'll save water and the energy it takes to heat it by filling sink basins with soapy water and washing and drying them yourself. If you do decide to use the dishwasher, make sure it's completely full before running so you can cut down on the number of loads you must do.

3. Manage your fireplace. The hearth is the ultimate energy saver. Make it count by turning down the thermostat to 60 degrees or lower and closing the door to that room. Just don't forget to close the flue when you're done!

4. Decorate with candles. Adorn your home and walkway with luminaries for a beautiful yuletide glow that won't run up energy bills. To ensure your luminaries are safe, be sure to weigh bags down with sand or use a battery-operated, flameless candle.

5. Appreciate the small things. Miniature holiday lights will twinkle just as long and brightly - while using about 70% less energy than the larger bulbs.

6. Speaking of lights...standard incandescent lights consume thousands of gigawatt hours each year. Avoid these energy hogs and switch to LED holiday lights, which will save you about one-fourth of that in just one season.

7. Cool it. Setting your water heater to "normal", or 120 degrees Fahrenheit, could save you over 10% in water heating costs.

8. Stay in control. Invest in a programmable thermostat, which will help moderate the temperature in your home while you're out on a shopping marathon or visiting Grandma's house. It is estimated that programmable thermostats can save you almost $200 in energy costs every year.

9. Follow the Star. Take advantage of Energy Star's "Home Energy Yardstick", where you can assess your current energy use and receive tips on how to enhance your home's energy efficiency, lower utility bills, and increase comfort. Learn more about how HWA supports eco-friendly Energy Star products here.

10. Go with the flow. A dirty air filter can slow air flow, putting more of a burden on your entire system. Replace your filter every month to save between 5 -10% on annual energy costs.

Grass on the roofIn today’s market, sellers who have kept up with all of their home’s maintenance needs are finding themselves in a much more enviable position than a homeowner who has neglected theirs. The reason for this is the market change from a “seller’s market” of just a couple years ago to the current ”buyer’s market”. Buyers are no longer saying yes to the “as is” agreement when purchasing a home. It used to be that before listing their home, sellers would put most of their time and energy into things like pretty new paint, updated light fixtures, fresh new flooring and hip hardware. Unfortunately, for a seller in today’s market you still must manage these minor updates, as well as keep home maintenance up-to-date to sell quickly. For example, it is helpful for a seller to have their roof maintenance performed or any termite damage corrected before putting the home on the market. Buyers are looking more closely at the costs of these things before buying. If there is another home down the street with good home maintenance and not such great curb appeal, in today’s climate a buyer may choose the former - as it will be less cash out of pocket and less headaches for them down the line.

For more information about home maintenance tips see Home Tips.

KeySince the kids will be out of school soon and many people will be planning vacations, it is time to start thinking about the best ways to protect your home from a possible burglary while you are away. The most obvious things most people do are stop the mail, stop the newspaper delivery, lock the house up tight and leave a light on. The following ideas go a step beyond these old stand-bys:
  • If you happen to be going away on an extended trip, you may be better off asking a neighbor to pick up your mail and newspaper and bring it into your home each day.
  • Invest in  a couple of timers. You can set them to turn a light on and then off at the same time each day. You can also use a timer on a radio or stereo.
  • Hire a house sitter in the form of your neighbor’s responsible teen, or work out a system with your neighbor where you can cover their house when they go away and they look after yours when you are away.
  • If your neighborhood does not already have a “neighborhood watch” program, be the one to start it. That way you will always have someone to tell your travel plans to.
  • Consider purchasing a home security system. Your home will be regularly monitored and many companies offer a neighborhood patrol.
For more information about home security tips go to HowStuffWorks for additional ideas

Here Are Some Ways To Increase Your Home’s Value

by lheraty
Front Door of Brick HouseAt times it can be expensive to simply maintain the biggest asset most people will ever own: their homes. Keeping this fact in mind, here is a list of ways to increase your home’s value without breaking the bank.
  • Hiring an inspector could be the most cost-effective thing you ever do. This is true if they find a small problem that could morph into something much bigger down the line, such as a termite infestation or a water leak.
  • Tremendous value is added by simply painting a room.
  • Energy efficient homes that feature items such as special windows and/or programmable thermostats, save you money and are a marketable asset if you do need to sell.
  • Landscaping improvements in the form of large shade trees make homes more desirable. They can also cut your cooling costs up to 40%.
  • Improve your home’s air quality by replacing old carpeting, or removing it entirely if you are lucky enough to have hardwood flooring underneath.
  • By adding a small luxury item such as a water filtration system, you are adding value to your home and saving yourself money since you will no longer need bottled water.
  • Replace old fixtures such as an old ceiling fan for a newer, more updated-looking model. It will make your home more pleasant on hot days, and will appeal to buyers if you need to sell.
Dog Any homeowner who lives with a pet knows that when you share your house with one of these beloved creatures, you give up the word “spotless” as a way to describe your home…forever. Here are some tips to keep your house as clean and fresh-smelling as possible despite your pet’s, let’s just say, “untidiness”.
  • Pet hair has an aroma. Usually, it’s not a good one. Vacuum regularly, even if the pet hair in question matches your furniture and you cannot see it. I promise you, your guests can smell it. Dyson makes a vacuum especially for picking up animal hair.
  • This is obvious, but a regularly bathed pet makes for a clean house. Think of how happy they are when it’s all over! Keeping pet’s nails trimmed also cuts down on scratched floors and fabrics.
  • Look into Crypton. It’s a stain-resistant fabric that includes suedes and twills. As always, leather and Ultrasuede are great choices for pet owners.
  • If you can, nix the wall-to-wall carpeting. It absorbs odors, traps pet hair and soaks up stains.
  • Stick to rubber toys if you have a mad chewer. Pig’s ears and rawhide bones are not only terrible for your pet’s health, but if they make it inside your home, they will stain your floor and furniture.
To learn about more interesting things for your home with pets go to www.everydaystudio.com and www.animalhousestyle.com.
Wood background Many homes have decks that are wonderful for enjoying the great outdoors, whether you are entertaining a crowd or just relaxing and enjoying the sunshine with a good book. Unfortunately, decks require maintenance to keep them looking fresh, clean and splinter free. If you are thinking about embarking upon a useful spring cleaning project, cleaning your deck is a great place to start. Proper maintenance is essential to extending the life of your deck. First, look over your deck carefully for any sections that may need repair. Next, thoroughly sweep it off. After that, you must arm yourself with a power-washer. These can be rented if you do not own one. There are a variety of deck cleaners available, but the best choice is an oxalic acid-based one. These clean your wood nicely, prevent rust, kill mildew and are even plant-friendly. If you have tough mildew stains, you will need to use oxygen bleach to remove the stains. Next you must coat it to keep it looking beautiful.
Vegetables on kitchen counter Most kitchens can benefit from even just one or two small changes, simply to make it look fresh again. Here are some ways that you can do this in a very cost-effective manner:
  • Update Small Appliances - Keep all of your counter top appliances such as your coffeemaker, toaster and blender all in the same finish. Coordinating these very visible things really makes a big difference in the orderliness of your kitchen’s look.
  • Window treatments - Don’t forget to add or update the treatments on your kitchen’s windows as they really can pull the whole design of your kitchen together, as well as add shade or privacy when needed.
  • Lighting Fixtures - Get rid of that tired old 1980’s ceiling fixture in exchange for a pretty chandelier or a row of chic pendants, and try not to smile every time you enter your “new” kitchen!
  • New Counter tops - Instead of an entire renovation, consider replacing just one thing. Your counter tops. You will be amazed at the variety of what is available now and at the incredible range of prices too. Counter tops remain one of the few things that will actually help sell a home.
  • Paint - Whether you really need to or not, who doesn’t love the look of freshly painted walls in a new color?
  • Under-Cabinet Lights - Easy to install puck lights are the way to go on this one.
  • Sink Faucet - So many beautiful models to choose from and most of the new models can save you money on water and energy costs to boot.
  • Cabinet Hardware - Changing cabinet hardware just so happens to be the easiest way to update your kitchen. Imagine simple nickel cabinet pulls in place of the dated ceramic ones you currently have. See what I mean?

A Few More Ways To Save On That Energy Bill…Part II

by lheraty
Building Doorway with Lanterns Most people purchase window treatments, such as heavy drapes, blinds or shutters to complete the look they want to establish on the inside of their home. But curtains, drapes, blinds and shutters are also a wonderful investment that will help keep energy costs down, whether you are heating or cooling your home. Attic insulation is also one of the best ways a homeowner can reduce the amount of energy they are paying for in their home, whether it is for heating or cooling. Without proper insulation it will escape via the roof. Expect to pay between $500 and $700 to insulate a 2,000-square foot home. According to experts, insulation can save you up to 25% on heating and cooling costs. Don’t forget to seal air leaks in your home. By simply filling in gaps around your windows and doors and sealing ducts, you can save up to 20% on your heating and cooling bill. Last but not least, always replace or clean your air filters. By doing this small task each season you can save 7% in electricity costs per year.
Hand at the CalculatorInstalling low-flow shower heads and faucets not only reduces the amount of money you will spend on water, but they also reduce the amount of money that you will spend on the electricity or gas that heats your water. Most faucet aerators will cost you about two dollars, and most low-flow shower heads cost around thirty dollars. By using these devices you will be able to re-coup these costs within one year of use. Plus, many utility companies offer their customers rebates for using these devices. Since a compact fluorescent bulb (CFL) will last six to twelve times longer and use up to 75% less energy than a regular bulb will, experts calculate that the purchase of one three dollar CFL will be re-payed in energy costs within three months of use. In less than one year, you can recover the cost of purchasing a lighting motion sensor. They cost about fifty dollars and one year is how long it will take to pay back the cost in energy bills in a very expensive state like New York, and as little as five months in a less expensive state, such as Nebraska.
Businessman holding a piggy bankIn regards to your home, most money-saving ideas cost money to implement. Over time, most homeowners come to accept this inevitable fact of home ownership. That being said, there are some things that are relatively inexpensive that you can do to save money. The best part of them is that the cost can be recovered very quickly, which leaves you almost no excuse not to implement them. One of these ways is to install programmable thermostats. Whether you live in a cold-weather state and need your heat on most of the year, or you live in a warm-weather state and cannot live without air-conditioning, pre-setting your indoor temperatures will save you a lot of money! Installing programmable thermostats can cost anywhere from $50 to $150. This investment allows you to set your heating and cooling to fluctuate at a desired controlled temperature throughout the day and night. For instance, when you sleep you can lower your heat dramatically and have it programmed to turn up on your waking hour. Don’t forget to shop around and compare prices and deals, as many utility companies offer rebates on high-tech thermostats. For more information about calculating energy costs see the Department of Energy.

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Cathy Russell
The Russell Company
2522 Covington St.
West Lafayette IN 47906
(765) 426-7000
(765) 335-5588
Fax: (765) 497-1003