Home Tips: Easy Tips to Lower Your Electric Bill

Unplug Unused Devices

Did you know that 23% of all household electricity usage can be saved if you eliminate what is referred to as a “vampire load” — A vampire load applies to something that is plugged in while not in use. If you notice the device may be warm, buzz, or exhibit signs of use even when not in use, that is a vampire load. Unplugging devices while not in use will create big savings on energy and money. If you have trouble with that, plugging multiple devices into a power strip and turning off the strip while not in use may be simpler than having to unplug and plugin multiple devices. Even a phone charger uses electricity when not in use!

Change Your Lightbulbs

LED lightbulbs to save energy, yet many people have not switched from traditional bulbs. LED bulbs cost about the same upfront, but last 10-20 times longer. They generate less heat than traditional bulbs which can save as much as 20% of air conditioning costs. LED bulbs are also more efficient and use 5-10% less electricity. All in all, replacing all your bulbs with LEDs can save you up to 10% of your yearly electrical costs.

Smart Thermostats

Using heating or cooling when you don’t need it can cost a significant amount. Do you ever turn down the temperature and forget to turn it back up when you leave the home in the summer, or the opposite in the winter? A smart thermostat is not only programmable to revert back automatically, but it can also be accessed by you remotely if you want to change the temperature from outside the home. If you went on vacation and don’t need to cool or heat your home, but forgot these smart thermostats can be reprogrammed from your phone. A programmable thermostat can save you 10-20% of your AC costs, and a smart thermostat can save you an additional 10-12% according to Nest, a manufacturer of smart thermostats.

Timing Your Energy Use

Did you know that utility companies often charge different rates at different times of the day? Basically, costs are higher during peak times. Your electrical bill should detail rates and times, if not it’s readily available from your utility company. Try to do laundry and other tasks when the costs are lower.

Do Full Loads

When washing clothes or dishes, do full loads. It doesn’t cost any more to run a cycle with a full load of dishes or clothes than a small load. If you wait for a full load you can cut down the number of loads you do. Doing 25% fewer loads will save you 25%! Just waiting for a full load can do that.

Home Tips: Essential Summer Home Maintenance Tips

As we are halfway through summer, now is the time to run an audit on the care for your home. Rain, wind, and other weather may have created some “obvious” fixes that needed immediate attention. However, today we are addressing some common and minor issues to resolve and maintain that can ensure longevity on the wear and tear caused over time on your home. Check them out below!

CLEAN OUT YOUR RAIN GUTTERS / ROOF

There is no telling what has ended up on your roof and inside your rain gutters. Flush those gutters out and check to see if you have any loose tiles or shingles on your roof. Now is the time to check it out to avoid any possible leaks when the rain comes back.

CHANGE THE BATTERIES IN YOUR SMOKE DETECTORS

It is not common knowledge that your smoke detectors should be changed every 6 months. The more you know. To make it easier to remember doing so, put yourself on a twice-a-year schedule to change them out. Perhaps when there is a time change, that can remind you to replace your batteries!

CHANGE ALL OF YOUR FILTERS

The general recommendation is to change out any and all filters in your home and throughout your appliances every 30-60 days. However, if you have a home without pets you can push to 90 days. If you have a home with pets and someone with allergies, you may want to consider every 20-45 days.

CHECK YOUR DECK 

Look over your deck for signs of rotting and hammer in any nails that are poking out to avoid injury. Then, determine if your deck needs any sealing. A good trick is to sprinkle water on your deck. If the water beads up, you are in good shape. If the water soaks in, it may be time to reseal it!

CHECK ON WASHER AND DRYER 

Did you know that every two months you should be draining out the excess fluids in your washing machine and cleaning out the vents in your dryer? This is the most overlooked maintenance that can add YEARS to the life of these appliances. Your clothes will wash in cleaner water, and your clothes will dry faster. A win win!

Home Tips: Brighten Up Your Home Through Florals

Brighten up your summer with these beautiful flowers that will thrive in the summer heat!

Now more than ever we are spending time at home. With vacations on hold, we will be enjoying our homes more than ever. Let’s not let the dry summer heat spoil our enjoyment of our garden and yards, just when we use them the most!  These flowers will add beauty and color to your yard.

Lily of the Nile

Also called blue lily or African lily, Agapanthus praecox is full sun or partial shade flower that thrives in warmer areas, especially in pots. “When it comes to containers and hanging baskets that are showing signs of stress, the best thing you can do is to move them into the shade and check often for dryness,” advises Kate Karam, editorial director at Monrovia. “They may need a deep drink at least once or even twice a day.”

Carnations

A symbol of love and distinction, carnations are known for their bold hues and impressive range of varieties. Certain carnations can grow up to 24 inches, while others range between 9 to 12 inches.

Oriental Lilies

There’s no denying the beauty of Oriental Lilies, which are known for their alluring fragrance and large flowers. They’re also low maintenance, requiring ample sunlight and moist soil.

Yarrow

Leave it to these dainty flowers to add a touch of elegance to your garden. While they can thrive under a bit of shade, they do best with loads of sunlight and well-drained soil.

Foxgloves

If you’re looking for a statement flower to add to your garden, consider foxgloves, which can easily reach up to six feet. They bloom early on in the summer and come in a slew of colors, ranging from pink to white.

Hibiscus

You can find these vibrant, trumpet-shaped blooms in a range of color combinations. Known to attract hummingbirds and butterflies, these flowers need tons of water and fertilizer during their blooming phase.

Gladiolus

This popular summer flower needs well-drained soil, a moderate amount of moisture, and an abundance of sunlight to flourish. Keep in mind that wind can harm certain tall varieties.

Rudbeckia

Some Rudbeckia varieties bloom during the summer months. These cheerful flowers are considered to be low maintenance, needing lots of sunlight along with well-drained soil.

Amaranthus

Also known as amaranth, this flower can grow from 18 inches to 6 feet tall in a variety of colors including red, orange, gold, green, and purple. This direct-sow annual does not tolerate wet soil, shade, or transplanting well.

Spider Flowers

Cleome hassleriana grows to be about 3 to 5 feet in rose, pink, purple, and white. It’s easy to grow from seed and self-sows for future summers.

Begonias

When it comes to begonias, you can find more than 1,000 different types in an array of colors, shapes, and sizes. They like soil that’s moist (rather than soaking wet), humidity, and partial shade.

Home Tips: Spring Cleaning

Nobody has to be told about wiping down doorknobs and washing their hands. But while saying it’s time to spring clean may sound redundant in the age of COVID-19, disinfected clutter is still disinfected clutter. And no amount of hand sanitizer will organize your garage or closets for you. So assuming you have some free time or possibly could simply use the distraction, why not tackle what is one of any year’s most intimidating, oft-delayed around-the-home endeavors? Here are a few tips to help you draw up your painstaking plan of action, room by room.

CLEAN FROM THE TOP DOWN

If you want to save time and energy, clean from the top to bottom — meaning dust the ceilings and ceiling fans first, so gravity does the work for you. Then you only need to vacuum your floors once. (One easy way to dust your ceiling fan while avoiding covering yourself with debris: slip an old pillowcase over each blade, then draw it forward to gather the dust inside. Once most of the dirt has been removed, then you can quickly wipe the blades down with a cloth.)

 

BATHROOM

Start cleaning by throwing almost everything out: the toilet brush, the toothbrushes, the shower curtain, even the trash can. Replacing them is both sanitary and inexpensive. Once that’s done, move onto the medicine cabinet to similarly dispose of anything that’s expired: from cosmetics to medications. You may also want to put in a new fan, since they are key to ventilating moisture, therefore protecting against mold and mildew.

KITCHEN

As with the bathroom, toss out everything that has collected over the winter months, such as expired condiments. Then clear out your cabinets to wipe down the shelves. If you have stainless steel appliances, don’t use harsh chemicals or steel wool, which can cause damage. Although you should consult the owner’s manual to see which cleaners to avoid, a simple cloth, warm water and dish detergent should be fine. Then dry them carefully to avoid water spots.

CLOSETS

Your first question should be: when was the last time I wore this and will I wear it again in the foreseeable future? Once you’ve answered that question, donate or dispose of the garments and items that are only gathering dust. From there, it’s all about utilizing available space. That might mean a closet system, whether one that is professionally installed or one that you can install yourself. Or it might be something as relatively simple as switching to velvet, space-saving, non-slip hangers.

THE GARAGE

The same rule that applies to the closet is true of the garage (or anywhere else where you might have skis stored away even though you haven’t hit the slopes in years). Think about what you want to keep and what you are only hanging on to for sentimental value. After that, clean and organize the garage. If square footage is limited, consider vertical wall hanging or ceiling track storage, which secures storage bins onto the ceiling. And remember that some things should never be stored here, including paint or other chemicals that require a constant temperature; leather, which can be damaged by moisture; or food that will lure insects or other pests.

Home Tips: Design Trends in a Post-Pandemic World

If you want to know how the coronavirus pandemic has impacted home design, take a seat. Since panic over possible toilet paper shortages erupted in March, sales of bidet attachments have skyrocketed — increasing more than 300 percent at San Francisco-based Brondell, the Los Angeles Times reported. And home experts foresee built-in bidets becoming an increasingly popular item even after the crisis has passed. What other design trends are likely to emerge in a post-pandemic world? Here are five that homeowners can expect.

Copper 

What’s old is new again. Humans have been harnessing this metal for more than 10,000 years — and since the Victoria era, it has been recognized for its antimicrobial qualities. In other words, it kills germs and viruses. Considering the coronavirus can survive for days on plastic and other surfaces, designers expect copper and its alloys, bronze and brass, to be sought-after for everything from fixtures and doorknobs to pots and cups. 

Autonomous energy and water 

If you can’t live off the grid, why not at least have your own mini-grid? There’s nothing like a global shutdown to remind us all how reliant we are on supply chains that are out of our control. So expect homeowners to protect themselves against future disasters by pursuing their own water and heat sources ­— whether by drilling water wells or turning to geothermal and solar technology, accelerating a societal shift toward alternative power that is also self-sufficient. 

Purification systems

With a renewed focus on cleanliness, some owners will want more protection than a stash of disinfecting wipes in every room. For them, future smart homes will purify the air inside the home as well as filter the air that arrives from outside. And although using ultraviolet radiation as a disinfectant is currently not recommended, at some point the technology will be developed to manufacture UV lamps and lighting that can safely sanitize as well as illuminate. 

No-touch faucets

Along with being constructed from antimicrobial materials, look for new faucets to use touch-free technology. That way, when you are done washing your hands, you won’t have to worry about who else has turned the tap.

Home offices

Although working remotely has been technically possible for years, companies have mostly resisted the idea of having their employees telecommute. Now that the shutdown has forced them to adapt — and demonstrated the ease of using video conference calls, emails, and texting, among other tools — it’s likely remote work will continue to be the new normal for many people even after the pandemic has ended. And that will make having a proper home office — not just the living room sofa and the coffee table — a necessity. 

Home Tips: DIY Grooming

Living in a lockdown can expose a lot – including your roots. So it’s no surprise that a month into the coronavirus pandemic, grooming gear is being snapped up with an urgency usually reserved for toilet paper and sanitizing wipes. According to Nielsen data, hair clipper sales have shot up 166 percent from this time last year while hair dye sales have increased 23 percent. With salons shuttered and Americans becoming do-it-yourself stylists faced with unkempt hair, chipped nails and scruffy stubble, here are a few tips to help you stay tidy while also avoiding jagged hairlines and accidental bald patches.

Cutting your hair 

If you can, you should wait until salons open again for your next haircut while also keeping your hair healthy and moisturized with leave-in creams and conditioners. As well, such products as gel, wax and pomade will let you experiment with your style without resorting to shears. Likewise, if you feel your bangs are out of control, try a slicked-back ponytail or headband to wrangle them away from your face. But if you absolutely feel like you need a cut, keep it simple and clean, snipping at dry – not wet – hair without switching up your style (again, leave that to the professionals). If you’re tackling the back of your hair, seek out someone to help you.

Doing your nails 

Try to make manicures a social activity in these self-isolating days. Invite the kids to participate. And if you have roommates, take turns doing each other’s nails. While there are manicure tool kits, all you really need are the essentials: a file, buffer and clippers. For a simple manicure, cut and file the nails into whatever shape you want, then buff the nail plate and wipe it with an acetone-based polish remover. A base coat will guard against chipping. If you want to remove Shellac or gel nails, there are plenty of online video tutorials to help guide you.

Coloring your hair

Because at-home and salon products are different, if you haven’t already been dyeing at home, you shouldn’t start now as it can wreak havoc on your appearance and your hair. So as you wait for your salon to re-open, take a few steps to maintain your hair: wash it less to keep the color from fading; use root touch-up products to conceal roots and vanishing colors; and for blondes and people with highlights, use purple shampoo to brighten your locks.

Caring for your skin

If you’re missing your regular facial and are looking to show your skin some love, but don’t have any face masks at home, you can make any number of your own alternatives, using such foods as bananas, cucumber, honey, milk, egg whites, squash and oatmeal.

Waxing

With salons closed, let it grow. That’s the advice from most experts, who suggest you don’t do anything more drastic than shaving at home while we’re all self-isolating. But if you’re a first-time self-waxer who is feeling particularly hirsute (and courageous), there are at-home solutions for you. The first, and most well-advised, are wax strips. For non-beginners, there are hot wax options, which are ready to go out of the microwave.

Growing a beard

So you’ve always wanted to grow a beard. Why not a pandemic beard? Being stuck at home is a perfect excuse to experiment. A few tips to unleash your inner lumberjack: let it grow for a month before you try to style it beyond snipping the edges; wash it at least twice daily while also using a beard oil to reduce the itchiness; and brush it in the direction you want it to grow.

Home Tips: Making Your Own Mask

As the world tries to contain the COVID-19 pandemic, both the City of Los Angeles and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are urging residents to cover their nose and mouth when leaving home. Specifically, the CDC says people should don cloth home-made masks while in such public spaces as grocery stores. So how do you make a mask? What material should you use? How do you wear it properly? And why are masks necessary now, anyway? Here are some answers.

Why are masks being recommended now?

At the outset of the pandemic, officials told the public they didn’t need to wear masks unless they were exhibiting symptoms or caring for someone who did. There were multiple reasons for this. They didn’t want the public stockpiling medical-grade masks needed by health-care professionals, for one. For another, masks are simply not as effective a method of protection as social distancing combined with hand washing. But officials also hadn’t realized people who have the virus but are asymptomatic are just as contagious as those who are visibly ill. By urging everyone to wear a mask, they hope to stop people from unwittingly spreading it. In other words, they want you to wear a mask, not to protect you, but to protect everyone else from you.

What kind of materials do I need?

Medical-grade masks, including surgical and N95 masks, need to be set aside for healthcare professionals already confronting devastating shortages of protective gear. Instead, the CDC recommends “cloth face coverings fashioned from household items or made at home from common materials at low cost can be used as an additional, voluntary public health measure.” Although there are no guidelines for what material you should use, in general, thicker is better, so try to find something that is 100 percent cotton such as old clothing.

Where can I learn how to make my mask?

Not surprisingly, the Internet has exploded with tutorials showing how you can make a DIY mask. On the official Twitter site for the U.S. Surgeon General, Dr. Jerome Adams demonstrates how to construct one by easily folding a piece of cloth such as a scarf or hand towel and tying an elastic band on either side. This method is similar to one shown by an online Japanese arts and crafts educator, in which a no-sew mask is assembled with a handkerchief and hair ties. For a more elaborate design, John Hopkins Medicine offers these instructions, suggesting to avoid using solid white or blue material so it doesn’t look like you are wearing a medical-grade mask. Likewise, Kaiser Permanente has this how-to-guide for people who prefer to sew one together. Kaiser also suggests you wash your fabric several times before cutting it, so it doesn’t later shrink. The tighter the fit, the more effective the mask.

Is there a right way to remove it?

If you’ve gone to the effort of making a mask, wear it correctly – and just as importantly, remove it correctly, by taking the straps off from behind your ears without touching the front of the mask. Remember, it is now contaminated. After each use, it should be either thrown out and replaced or disinfected with soap and water.

Does a mask mean I can stop social distancing or washing my hands?

Absolutely not. In fact, you should not be leaving your home at all, except to make essential trips to the grocery store or pharmacy. And even then, although your face covering may give you a false sense of security, maintain a space of six feet or more between you and others. This physical distancing, in addition to frequent hand washing, is the most effective way to both protect yourself and stop the spread of COVID-19.

Home Tips: Safer at Home

Just because you’re home doesn’t mean the coronavirus can’t follow you inside. By now, we all know the basic steps the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) are urging people to follow in their daily lives:

    • Wash your hands frequently for at least 20 seconds – or about the time it takes to sing “Happy Birthday” twice.
    • Keep your distance from people in general (a radius of six feet is suggested), but especially from those who are sick.
    • Cough or sneeze into a tissue and then dispose of it in the trash.
    • If you are sick, stay home.
    • If you have symptoms such as a dry cough or fever, seek medical advice.

Which, while providing necessary guidance, still leaves unanswered questions for people now sheltering in place. Among them:

WITH SCHOOLS CLOSED, IS IT SAFE TO HAVE GRANDPARENTS BABYSIT THE KIDS? 

In a word, no. Although recent data suggests younger adults and teenagers are not as immune to the effects of COVID-19 as first thought, the virus nevertheless presents the greatest risk to older adults and people already suffering from such chronic medical conditions as lung disease. For example, as of mid-March, when there were about 2,500 cases in the U.S., adults over the age of 65 accounted for roughly 80 percent of the reported deaths.

HOW CAN I HELP OLDER LOVED ONES FEEL LESS ISOLATED?

During this crisis, don’t overlook the mental wellness of your loved ones, particularly the elderly. If grandma and grandpa cannot see their grandchildren in person, arm them with digital devices, even if they aren’t terribly tech-savvy. The Apple iPad Pro 9.7, for example, is both high-end and user-friendly, bolstered by a brilliant display. For a device, even more, stripped down in its simplicity, there is the GrandPad for video chatting and photo swapping 

HOW DO I STAY FIT AND HEALTHY IF I CAN’T EXERCISE?

With gyms shuttered and outdoor activities dramatically curtailed, fitness pros are turning online, offering live-streaming classes and free trial apps for anyone who wants to stay in shape. For a more challenging routine, Orangetheory offers a variety of at-home workouts daily. Boxing studio Rumble is hosting workouts on Instagram Live while CorePower Yoga is streaming free classes. Indoor cycling titan Peloton is also offering a free 90-day trial of their classes, which range from cycling and running to yoga and meditation. Lastly, for seniors, the AARP has several fitness videos posted on YouTube. But whatever you choose, don’t stress. Studies suggest a five-minute workout once a day is all you need to maintain your status quo.

I HAVE SANITIZING WIPES AND TOILET PAPER, WHAT AM I MISSING?

The coronavirus isn’t a cyber-attack, but what would happen if your phone or laptop broke and stores weren’t open to selling you a replacement and online delivery became so overwhelmed, it would take days or weeks to courier a new device to you? If you are now working remotely – or need to stay in contact with a family member digitally – you should consider spending on a back-up phone, batteries and any spare parts for the electronics you rely on.

HOW OFTEN SHOULD I CLEAN THE HOUSE – AND WHAT ARE THE HOTSPOTS?

Experts suggest you clean your home every few days – but pay special attention to the areas and objects that receive the most human contact: doorknobs, light switches, countertops, even TV remotes. As for dish and bath towels, wash them every day after you use them.

SHOULD I MAKE MY OWN HAND SANITIZER?

For all the talk about making your own hand sanitizer – and a lot of what is discussed online wouldn’t be effective, anyway – soap and water should always be your go-to. (Just like people have been doing to battle viruses for most of history; the first soap was manufactured by the Babylonians in 2800 B.C.) Only if the soap isn’t available should you consider a substitute. If you do have to do it yourself, it needs to be at least 60 percent alcohol. (Most online formulas combine rubbing alcohol, which is 99 percent alcohol, with aloe vera gel and lemon juice.)

Home Tips: Sick-Proofing Your Home

You may not have heard lately, but it’s still cold and flu season. This means as concerned as you are about the coronavirus, there are other germs galore equally intent on making you ill. The good news: most of them, including COVID-19, can be effectively dealt with by simple cleanliness, especially around the home. And while that has predictably created mass shortages of sanitizing products, it also requires more than a simple wipe-down. Here are a few ways to help keep your house a healthier place as you hunker down for the long haul.

WIPE SMART

Possessing the precious sanitizing wipe isn’t enough – you also need to wield it correctly. First, after cleaning, surfaces should stay wet for a few minutes, then be allowed to air dry. Second, the wipe should be discarded (no matter how diminished your supply is) as studies have shown reusing it will only spread germs rather than eliminate them. If you don’t have sanitizing wipes, try mixing five tablespoons of bleach in a gallon of water as a make-ready disinfectant. Using a vinegar solution isn’t potent enough, especially against COVID-19. 

Wipe your fEET

There’s little point to assiduously scrubbing your house down if you’re tracking in dirt and who-knows-what into the place every time you enter. Slap down a fresh doormat at every entryway and remove your shoes whenever you come inside. Better still, wash the soles frequently because, again, who knows what you stepped in out there.

WASH TOWELS AND LINENS

Linens and towels, which viruses and bacteria cling to, should be washed frequently in hot water. If someone in your home has been sick, a few extra steps are recommended, such as introducing bleach to your laundry – always follow the instructions on the label – and then sterilizing the washing machine itself. This can be done by adding bleach to an empty cycle of hot water, then running it a second time just to make sure the bleach has been drained away.

SANITIZE YOUR CLEANING TOOLS

After you’ve scrubbed and disinfected from one corner to the other, you aren’t finished cleaning until you’ve sanitized the mops, rags and any other items you may have used. Otherwise, you run the risk of having only captured the germs in your home – which you will then distribute around the next time you “clean.” Wash them with hot water and soap as well as a touch of bleach. And if possible, ditch your mops and brooms altogether for disposable cloth refills.

HUMIDIFY YOUR HOME

From cutting down on static electricity to keeping wood from splitting, there are many reasons to keep humidifiers around, especially during winter. But most importantly, a humidifier, like the Vicks mist humidifier pictured here on Amazon, can help eliminate flu viruses. And if you are suffering symptoms, a higher humidity level can soothe sore throats and sinus congestion.

 

Home Tips: Dealing with an Empty Nest

Whether you’re thrilled to send them off to college and financial self-stability or crestfallen your babies are gone, you’re still left with an empty nest. So what better time to reassess not only your goals – like heading out on that long-belated road trip – but also your surroundings? Here are a few tips to help you adjust after your family has downsized, leaving you – and your home – teenager-free.

DECLUTTER

It’s not just the memories that have been building over time. So have the clothes, the toys, the photographs and every other memento connected to those cherished moments in time. Besides, as people grow older, they tend to cling to items more stubbornly. One place to start: the belongings you acquired that don’t have sentimental value. The toasters you picked up along the way, for example, or that cheap lamp you never liked. If all of this sounds like too much to bear, you can always hire a professional to comb through your closets and shelves.

REDECORATE

After two decades of your living room furniture being spilled on, jumped on, slept on and sprawled on, it might be time for something new. The same could be said of almost everything else in your home, including the walls. Maybe you didn’t want to paint with fingerprint-staining kids around. Or you couldn’t cope with covering over every precious mark they made as they matured. Now, however, it is the perfect opportunity to head to the paint store. Plus, you can make whatever changes you want without a teenager telling you your taste sucks.

DON’T STORE EVERYTHING

For an empty nester, it seems like the best of both worlds: hang onto everything, even if you’re not living with it. But while renting a storage unit can be useful for things you will need again – like holiday decorations or ski equipment – it’s probably not for the decades-old baby chair you fed your now-grown children in. In other words, control your storage habit.

RENT OUT A ROOM

Nothing fills the cold void left by your absent children than a little extra cash. But if you do decide to rent out a room in your home, it doesn’t mean it needs to be a permanent arrangement. Many empty nesters rely on such sharing services as Airbnb to generate some side income (in addition to paying fewer expenses taking care of their kids). Use the money to pay for the trips you always talked about going on – or toward purchasing another house.

THINK ABOUT RIGHT SIZING

The hardest thing to get rid of, of course, is the house itself. After all, this is where you raised your family, watched your children grow, cultivated a lifetime of triumphs and challenges. No surprise then that a lot of empty nesters refuse to leave, choosing instead to renovate their homes with elevators or other ways to make their homes accessible as they age. But try to make choices based on how you envision the next few decades. Downsizing to a condo, for example, may allow for more travel while also eliminating such chores as landscaping. Just because one chapter has ended doesn’t mean it’s too early to plan for the next one.