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Its getting chilly outside……these simple tips will help you through the cold!!

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Its getting chilly outside……these simple tips will help you through the cold!!

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Shave Up to 15% Off Your Heating Bill with This Simple Tip

Think you’re saving on your heating bill by keeping it at a constant 68 degrees? You’re not, and here’s why

It’s easy to imagine your energy bill going sky-high when you hear your furnace fire up.  That’s the reason so many people believe keeping a steady temperature of 68 degrees is the key to energy savings. But that’s a myth.

In fact, the lower the temperature, the slower your house loses the heat, according to energy.gov. And that keeps your hard-earned money from floating out the door.

So if you truly want to see your heating bill drop, you need to turn down the temperature another 10 or 15 degrees for eight-hour stretches on a regular basis — like when you’re at work, sleeping, or out of town.

When you return, turn it back up to 68 degrees. Or better yet, take advantage of what a programmable thermostat can do.

In the summer, just flip the strategy:

  • Set your AC to 78 degrees when you’re home.
  • When you leave, turn the AC off or set your thermostat to a much warmer temperature.

Here are some other misconceptions about and tips for reducing your heating and cooling costs.

Resist the Urge to Crank Up the Thermostat

Turning up the thermostat past your desired setting won’t speed heating. Your furnace works at the same pace regardless of temperature settings. That also applies to your AC; setting the thermostat to its coolest temperature won’t chill your home any faster.

A Programmable Thermostat Doesn’t Automatically Reduce Energy Use

Installing a programmable thermostat with factory settings isn’t going to do you much good. You can only reduce the amount of power your home consumes if you create a personalized heating and cooling program that makes the most of your own energy-saving opportunities.

Programmable thermostats come in four different pre-set schedule styles, so it’s important to pick one that’s in sync with your household’s scheduling needs:

  • 7-day programming offers the most flexibility. It allows you to set a different heating and cooling schedule for each day of the week.
  • 5-1-1 programming is a good choice if you have a predictable weekday schedule. It lets you set an identical heating and cooling plan Monday through Friday, and a different plan for Saturday and Sunday.
  • 5-2 programming is similar to the 5-1-1 programming, except you can only program one heating and cooling schedule for both Saturday and Sunday.
  • 1-week programming is a good choice if you stick to the same schedule every day of the week. It allows you to create a single heating and cooling plan that repeats daily.

Bonus tip: When daylight savings comes around, remember to adjust your settings so your heating and cooling program isn’t off by an hour.

Some Smart Thermostats are a Lot Smarter Than Others; Choose Wisely

Smart thermostats aren’t all the same. Sure, all offer Internet connectivity for remote management using your mobile device. But each thermostat brand uses a different proprietary self-programming technology.

For example, Google’s Nest relies on sensors and a learning algorithm to manage your heating and cooling preferences. Honeywell’s Lyric uses GPS technology to trigger heating and cooling automatically via your smartphone.

But here’s the kicker: Just like manual or programmable thermostats, it’s up to the user to set preferences that enable energy savings. And for those of you who still believe a smart thermostat can shave 30% of your utility bills, here’s a reality check: A study conducted by Nest revealed its users can only save up to 12% on heating costs.

Don’t assume every smart thermostat is user friendly.  A recent study on thermostat usability by the Sacramento Municipal Utility District revealed that the ballyhooed Nest thermostat isn’t all that user friendly. The Nest was tested against a mix of 11 smart and programmable thermostats for ease of use without using a manual. It received the second-worst rating.

Which thermostat came out on top? One by a company with a century of cooling experience: the Carrier ComfortChoice Touch. The study participants also selected it as their preferred choice for purchase out of the models they tested.

Bonus tip: Avoid those wireless apps that let you control the thermostat remotely. A study on Wi-Fi enabled thermostats says that using them remotely can boost energy use. This is because they allow users to crank up the heat or AC remotely before they return home.

Related: The Warm and Cozy Home Guide

deirdre-sullivan Deirdre Sullivanis an NYC-based writer who’s obsessed with maximizing every inch of her urban dwelling. She’s a former fashionista who has worked for Lucky Magazine and InStyle. She recently traded her high heels and Fashion Week pass for a drill and bandsaw. Follow Deirdre on Google+Twitter, and Pinterest.

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Tips for Adding Curb Appeal…and Value to Your Home

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8 Tips for Adding Curb Appeal and Value to Your Home

Here are eight ways to help your home put its best face forward.

Homes with high curb appeal command higher prices and take less time to sell. We’re not talking about replacing vinyl siding with redwood siding; we’re talking about maintenance and beautifying tasks you’d like to live with anyway.

The way your house looks from the street — attractively landscaped and well-maintained — can add thousands to its value and cut the time it takes to sell. But which projects pump up curb appeal most? Some spit and polish goes a long way, and so does a dose of color.

Related: Gorgeous Landscaping for Your House Means More Than Just Looks

Tip #1: Wash Your House’s Face

Before you scrape any paint or plant more azaleas, wash the dirt, mildew, and general grunge off the outside of your house. Washing a house can add $10,000 to $15,000 to the sale prices of some houses.

A bucket of soapy water and a long-handled, soft-bristled brush can remove the dust and dirt that have splashed onto your wood, vinyl, metal, stucco, brick, and fiber cement siding. Power washers (rental: $75 per day) can reveal the true color of your flagstone walkways.

Wash your windows inside and out, swipe cobwebs from eaves, and hose down downspouts. Don’t forget your garage door, which was once bright white. If you can’t spray off the dirt, scrub it off with a solution of 1/2 cup trisodium phosphate — TSP, available at grocery stores, hardware stores, and home improvement centers — dissolved in 1 gallon of water.

You and a friend can make your house sparkle in a few weekends. A professional cleaning crew will cost hundreds — depending on the size of the house and number of windows — but will finish in a couple of days.

Tip #2: Freshen the Paint Job

Give the exterior of your home a good paint job. Buyers will instantly notice it, and appraisers will value it.
 
Of course, painting is an expensive and time-consuming facelift. To paint a 3,000-square-foot home, figure on spending $375 to $600 on paint; $1,500 to $3,000 on labor.

Your best bet is to match the paint you already have: Scrape off a little and ask your local paint store to match it. Resist the urge to make a statement with color. An appraiser will mark down the value of a house that’s painted a wildly different color from its competition.

Tip #3: Regard the Roof

The condition of your roof is one of the first things buyers and Inspectors notice and appraisers assess. Missing, curled, or faded shingles add nothing to the look or value of your house. If your neighbors have maintained or replaced their roofs, yours will look especially shabby.

You can pay for roof repairs now, or pay for them later in a lower appraisal; appraisers will mark down the value by the cost of the repair. According to “Remodeling” magazine’s 2015 “Cost vs. Value Report,” the average cost of a new asphalt shingle roof is about $19,500.

Some tired roofs look a lot better after you remove 25 years of dirt, moss, lichens, and algae. Don’t try cleaning your roof yourself: call a professional with the right tools and technique to clean it without damaging it. A 2,000-square-foot roof will take a day and $400 to $600 to clean professionally.

Tip #4: Neaten the Yard

A well-manicured lawn, fresh mulch, and pruned shrubs boost the curb appeal of any home.

Replace overgrown bushes with leafy plants and colorful annuals. Surround bushes and trees with dark or reddish-brown bark mulch, which gives a rich feel to the yard. Put a crisp edge on garden beds, pull weeds and invasive vines, and plant a few geraniums in pots.

Green up your grass with lawn food and water. Cover bare spots with seeds and sod, get rid of crab grass, and mow regularly.

Tip #5: Add a Color Splash

Even a little color attracts and pleases the eye of would-be buyers.

Plant a tulip border in the fall that will bloom in the spring. Dig a flowerbed by the mailbox and plant some pansies. Place a brightly colored bench or  chair on the front porch. Get a little daring, and paint the front door red or blue.

These colorful touches won’t add to the value of our house: Appraisers don’t give you extra points for a blue bench. But beautiful colors enhance curb appeal and help your house to sell faster.

Related: Colorful Plants with Curb Appeal

Tip #6: Glam Your Mailbox

An upscale mailbox, architectural house numbers, or address plaques can make your house stand out.

High-style die cast aluminum mailboxes range from $100 to $350. You can pick up a handsome, hand-painted mailbox for about $50. If you don’t buy new, at least give your old mailbox a facelift with paint and new house numbers.

These days, your local home improvement center or hardware stores has an impressive selection of decorative numbers. Architectural address plaques, which you tack to the house or plant in the yard, typically range from $80 to $200. Brass house numbers range from $3 to $11 each, depending on size and style.

Related: 11 Ways to Create a Welcoming Front Entrance for Under $100

Tip #7: Fence Yourself In

A picket fence with a garden gate to frame the yard is an asset. Not only does it add visual punch to your property, appraisers will give extra value to a fence in good condition, although it has more impact in a family-oriented neighborhood than an upscale retirement community.

Expect to pay $2,000 to $3,500 for a professionally installed gated picket fence 3 feet high and 100 feet long.

If you already have a fence, make sure it’s clean and in good condition. Replace broken gates and tighten loose latches.

Tip #8: Maintenance is a Must

Nothing looks worse from the curb — and sets off subconscious alarms — like hanging gutters, missing bricks from the front steps, or peeling paint. Not only can these deferred maintenance items damage your home, but they can decrease the value of your house by 10%.

Here are some maintenance chores that will dramatically help the look of your house:

  • Refasten sagging gutters.
  • Repoint bricks that have lost their mortar.
  • Reseal cracked asphalt.
  • Straighten shutters.
  • Replace cracked windows.