It was so nice to have a white Christmas for the first time in many years. However, along with snow comes cold temps. If your home isn’t properly winterized, that can mean big heating bills. Here are six ways to save money while staying warm this winter:
- Close the flue when not using your fireplace. Warm air from your home can escape from your fireplace when it isn’t in use. When not using it, close the flue and consider reducing how often you use the fireplace. If you can’t resist a roaring fire, install glass fireplace doors to keep the warm air inside.
- Reduce drafts by installing door sweeps on exterior doors to keep the cold air from seeping in. Also, keep interior doors to unused rooms closed, like the guest room that rarely gets used.
- Seal windows with plastic film. Companies like 3M make window film kits to help you seal your windows from the inside. They are inexpensive and easy to install and could help cut your heating cuts this winter.
- Window treatments like wood blinds and insulated curtains can make a big difference in keeping the cold air out. Just remember to open them during the day to let the sunlight warm your home naturally.
- Install a programmable thermostat. Set the thermostat on a lower temperature when you’re away from home or asleep at night, saving those toasty warm temps for when your family is home and active.
- Keep heating ducts, vents and registers free from obstacles. To make sure forced air can circulate properly throughout each room, make sure heating ducts, vents and registers are not blocked by furniture. Not only will this keep your home warmer, but it can prevent a possible fire.
Like it or not, winter is just 10 days away. If you haven’t already prepped your home for winter and freezing temps, there’s still time. Use our handy checklist to make sure you and your home are ready for winter weather:
- Reverse the direction of your ceiling fans so the blades rotate clockwise. Keep on a low speed to push air down from the ceiling into your room.
- Have your furnace surfaced at the beginning of the season and make sure you change the filters according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
- Lower your thermostat or use a programmable thermostat to save on energy costs.
- Remove window screens and install storm windows and doors, if you have them.
- Shut off exterior water sources and cover the faucets to prevent freezing.
- Insulate exposed pipes to prevent burst pipes.
- Insulate your hot water heater.
- Block drafts from doors and windows and seal cracks with door sweeps, door gaskets, calking and weather stripping.
- Have your chimney cleaned annually to decrease your risk of fire and buildup and residue.
- Remove any portable air conditioners and cover condensing units.
- Make sure your gutters and downspouts are clear and free of debris. This will be particularly helpful when the heavy rains come.
We’ve said it a thousand times, but it still remains true – curb appeal is everything. It’s what draws a potential homebuyer to want to see the inside of your home. Here are 5 simple, affordable upgrades you can make to your home now to improve its curb appeal this fall:
- Landscaping: Add fresh mulch to the base of your treas and other plans, and add seasonal plants like mums to your flower beds for a colorful fall look. If the weather doesn’t cooperate, but you still want seasonal decor for your home, add a fall-themed wreath or to your front door or potted mums to your porch.
- Upgrade outdoor accessories: Replace those faded house numbers, paint your mailbox or get a new front door. These small, but affordable changes can give your house a fresh, well-maintained look that will entice homebuyers to want to see more.
- Keep your lawn groomed. Yes, it is fall and it can be hard to keep up with the falling leaves, but it is important to keep your lawn groomed, especially if you are trying to sell your home. Keep your lawn freshly mowed, the weeds under control, trees and shrubs trimmed and the leaves raked.
- Pressure wash the exterior of your home, your porch and patio or deck. Particularly in the Pacific Northwest where moss can accumulate, it is important to pressure wash your home and outdoor living areas. This also makes your home look cared for.
- Add or upgrade your outdoor lighting. As our days get shorter, outdoor lighting can create an easy-on-the-eyes aesthetic while also providing an important function – a well lit path to your door. Consider decorative lights along sidewalks, flood lights near entrances and new porch lights.
As technology evolves, more and more homeowners are using smart home technology to control systems and appliances in their homes – thermostats, refrigerators, dishwashers, lighting, sound systems and more. These systems and appliances can be controlled by your smartphone, but many can now be controlled by voice-controlled devices like Amazon Echo or Google Home.
If you’re considering smart home devices, here are some tips to help you get started:
- Manage your smart home devices on a secure home WiFi network.
- Start small to see if smart home technology fits your lifestyle. For example, try LED light bulbs that you can dim or turn on and off with your smartphone, or buy a smart plug to turn lamps on with a timer.
- Smart lights, which are all LEDs, use a lot less electricity than other light bulbs.
- Voice controlled devices like Amazon Echo and Google Home let you use voice commands to order a pizza, play music, shop online, or tell you the news or weather.
- Security cameras like those by Nest and video doorbells like those by Ring are a great way to monitor your home from your smartphone, tablet or laptop. You can mount them outside your front door to see who is coming and going. Some also offer monitoring services and cloud-based video storage.
- Smart locks are also growing in popularity. You can lock and unlock your front door using your smartphone, and you can grant temporary access to guests like a pet sitter or babysitter.
- Smart home hubs can control multiple smart home devices, so they communicate with each other. Companies like Samsung create hubs, but Amazon Echo can also act as a hub.
- Want to save on your energy bill? A smart thermostat can help. You can automatically set the temperature of your home with your phone, and adjust it as needed. You can even turn on the heat remotely if there’s a sudden weather change, so you don’t have to go home to a cold house.
- You can now get a smoke detector to let you know if there is smoke or fire in your home, no matter where you are.
- If you enjoy technology, universal remotes are a cool way to control your TV, stereo, DVD player, cable box and more, all from one device.
There are so many smart home products on the market, and we don’t want to recommend any specific products here, but there are review sites like The Wirecutter and Tom’s Guide that will give you their recommendations. Also, before you buy anything, check buyer reviews on Amazon to see if customers are pleased with their purchases. Good luck!
Make sure your home is ready for the changing seasons with this handy fall home maintenance checklist from Team Marti:
- Check smoke and carbon monoxide detectors and change batteries.
- Replace furnace filters.
- Seal cracks and gaps around windows and doors.
- Install storm doors and windows.
- Check weather stripping around your garage door.
- Clean your humidifiers.
- Reverse direction of ceiling fans.
- Clean and repair gutters and downspouts.
- Drain outside faucets and hoses.
- Make repairs or repaint peeling or blistering paint.
- Have your roof inspected and schedule repairs.
- Clean and store lawn furniture.
- Prepare your lawn and gardens for winter.
- Check your driveway, sidewalk and patio for cracks.
According to a report from the U.S. Department of Justice cited by Alarms.org, on average, burglary rates are the highest in the summer. Winter has the lowest burglary rate, with February having the lowest amount of burglaries.
Did you know that break-ins are 6% more likely to occur during the day between 6 AM and 6 PM while people are at work? According to the FBI, there were 1.9 million burglaries in the U.S. in 2013, or approximately one every 16 seconds. About a third of these occurred through an unlocked door or window, says Urban Survival.
There is good news though. There are easy ways for you to protect your home and your belongings by avoiding these home security mistakes.
- A full mailbox. This is a clue to a would-be burglar that no one is home. Make sure that your mail doesn’t accumulate when you go out of town, whether it is a day trip or a week’s vacation. Ask a neighbor to take in your mail, or have the U.S. Post Office hold your mail for up to 30 days.
- Hiding a spare key in an obvious place. Don’t hide a spare key where it is likely to be found, like in a flower pot by the door, under the welcome mat, or one of those fake rocks that we all know are for hiding keys. Better yet, instead of hiding one outside, give a spare key to a trusted neighbor in case you lock yourself out.
- Talking about your trips on social media. These days so many of us post photos and check-ins of our vacations and business trips on social media. This is an invitation to a burglar looking for an easy target. Wait until you get back to post the pix, and/or tighten your security settings on social media so only your friends can see your posts.
- Disabling your security alarm. Because more residential burglaries occur during the day, you should not disable the alarm when you’re home during the day. Leave it enabled to protect your home and your family from a daytime break-in.
- Leaving doors and windows unlocked. We get comfortable in our surroundings and assume that no one will try climbing in a window or letting themselves into your home through an unlocked door. Wrong. Upgrade to heavy-duty door and window locks, use dowel rods or similar devices to keep your windows from being able to easily slide open, or consider getting door and window alarms which go off when the door or window is opened.
- Leaving your garage door open and unlocked. Once upon a time, neighbors would leave their garage doors open, so they could easily go in and out of their homes on the weekends while their kids were playing outside or they were working in the yard. This creates an opportunity for a thief to get inside effortlessly. Err on the side of caution. Leave the door down and locked when not in use.
- Poor lighting. A poorly lit exterior can provide good cover for a burglar who wants to break into your home at night. Add exterior lighting or perhaps lights with a motion detector sensor.
- A ladder in the yard. Yes, taking your ladder in and out of the garage while you are working on an exterior project can be a pain, but leaving the ladder out is an easy way for a burglar to enter your home through the second story.
When you’re selling your home, you want to make a good first impression, so curb appeal is important. This is particularly true when you’re marketing your home online. According to HGTV, 88% of home searches begin online, so make sure your home is inviting.
Here are 9 ways to freshen your home’s curb appeal this spring:
- Take photos of your home and then look at them as if you were a prospective homebuyer. Do you see anything out of place (maybe kids’ toys in the garden or Fido’s bone on the front lawn) or that wouldn’t appeal to you as a potential buyer? Remove any unwanted items.
- Make obvious repairs or replacements. Are the house numbers faded or missing? Could your front door or mailbox use a fresh coat a paint? Is a shingle missing? Is one of your shutters crooked?
- Spruce up a paint job, siding, deck, driveway and sidewalk with a good pressure washing. It is an easy, affordable way to freshen your home’s exterior for springtime.
- Add some color with seasonal flowers in the garden, or add a colorful container garden to your front porch or patio. Clusters of three pots of different sizes and styles can also add a welcome pop of color.
- Evaluate your window treatments from the outside, including curtains, blinds and shutters. Do any of them need replacing? For example, if you have pets, the ends of blinds can sometimes get bent or broken, and those will be obvious from the outside. Changing out the blinds is an easy and affordable fix.
- Groom your lawn. This is true before and after your Realtor® takes photos. Groom your lawn. Keep your lawn freshly mowed, the edges trimmed, beauty bark freshened annually, and your trees and bushes pruned.
- Upgrade your lighting. Whether you are switching out a light fixture on your porch, adding landscape lights to a garden pathway or installing outdoor spotlights to your backyard, new lighting is a cost-friendly way to add ambience to your home’s exterior.
- Create an inviting entrance with a cozy front porch. In addition to the tips above, consider adding a seasonal wreath to your front door, attractive seating (maybe even a porch swing!), a new rug and a fresh coat of paint.
- Maximize outdoor living space, whether it is a side deck or a backyard patio. This might include lighting, landscaping, outdoor furniture, outdoor cooking spaces, play areas for the kids, butterfly garden, or even a backyard sanctuary.
If you’re considering listing your home this spring, and want suggestions for how to improve your home’s curb appeal, Team Marti can help. Contact us today.
Sources: HGTV and Forbes
After the holidays, and as we start the new year, many of us are looking for ways to save money. Here some ways you can do that by also saving energy and water.
- Cover your water heater. Water heaters have to exert a lot of energy to heat the water in the tank, especially for larger water heaters. Invest in a water heater blanket for insulation and to conserve energy.
- Use low-flow fixtures. The kitchen and bathroom are typically where the majority of water in your home is used. By replacing faucets and showerheads with a low flow version, you will save water and money, and new fixtures are easy to install. Also, consider a Water Sense rated dishwater and washing machine for additional savings.
- Upgrade your toilet. If you have an older toilet (installed before 1992), it could be using twice as much water per flush than a newer model which wastes both water and money. Try a low-flush model that uses less water per flush.
- Inspect your dishwasher, washing machine and water heater regularly. These three appliances use a lot of water and energy, so it is important that they are maintained properly. Clean them regularly, check for leaks and fix any potential problems before they become costly ones. Check the manufacturer’s instructions to determine the average life span of each appliance, so you’ll have a good idea of when they’ll need to be replaced, and budget accordingly.
- Turn off the tap. Turn off the faucet when brushing your teeth or washing your hands. Turn the water on when you’re ready to rinse.
- Go to the car wash. Rather than washing your car in the driveway, take it to the car wash instead. This will not only save water, but if you choose a car wash that recycles water, you are helping to protect the environment too.
- Install a rain garden. Rain gardens are a great way to conserve and recycle water at home while protecting the environment from pollutants and rain runoff. Learn more about creating a rain garden at 12,000 Rain Gardens.
- Take shorter, less frequent showers. Showers can use as much as 5 gallons per minute, so shorter showers and/or less frequent showers can make a big difference on your monthly water bill.
- Reduce the size of your lawn. By reducing your lawn’s footprint, you may be able to save water. You could install landscaping features, stone, a low-water garden or even a rain garden to cut back on the amount of watering needed to maintain your outdoor space.
- Minimize water use when washing dishes by hand. If you’re washing dishes by hand, don’t let the water run. Instead, fill one side of the sink or a wash basin for washing and a second one for rinsing.
Sources: Roto Rooter, Care2 and WaterUseItWisely.
The holidays are a wonderful time of year to spend time with friends and family, decorate our homes for the season, and gather around a toasty warm fireplace. Unfortunately, some of these activities bring inherent dangers with them. Here are 11 holiday and winter fire safety tips from Pillar to Post to help keep your family and safe this holiday season.
- Before hanging holiday lights indoors or out, check for frayed or broken wires and plugs. Always follow the manufacturer’s guidelines when connecting strings of lights together to prevent overload.
- Only turn on your holiday lights when someone is home, and be sure to turn them off before you go to bed each night.
- Candles are a beautiful way to decorate for the holidays, but they need to be used with caution. If you are using real candles, be sure they are in stable holders and located away from drapes, pets, children and other potential hazards. Never leave candles burning unattended.
- If you are using a live Christmas tree this year, be sure it is properly hydrated and placed in a proper stand. Be sure to check the water level daily, and use nonflammable decorations. Also, when the tree becomes dried out after the holiday, dispose of it as soon as possible. Some cities and scout troops collect the trees to use for mulch, so recycle it if you can.
- Check lamps, appliances and electronics regularly for frayed cords, loose or broken plugs, and exposed wiring. If any of those items are damaged, do not use that electrical item, and never run electrical wires or extension cords under carpets or rugs.
- Have your fireplace serviced every year, including cleaning and masonry repair.
- If you plan to use a space heater to heat your home, keep it away from beds, bedding, curtains, papers or anything else flammable. Keep it away from children and pets, and never leave it unattended. Turn space heaters off before going to bed at night.
- Use smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, and change their batteries to keep them fresh. Home safety experts recommend changing the batteries when the time changes each spring and fall.
- Keep matches, lighters and candles away from children. Also, be sure to store flammable materials like gasoline, kerosene and propane outside and away from your home.
- When doing your holiday cooking and baking, be particularly careful in the kitchen. Grease fires and other kitchen fires and burns can be prevented with good cleaning and by taking great care while cooking. Have a fire extinguisher created to handle grease and fuel fires handy (pantry, under the sink, etc.).
- Make sure your family has and knows its emergency escape plan. Visit Ready.gov for information on creating a plan, and make sure all family members – including small children – know to dial 9-1-1 in case of a fire.
Thanks again to Pillar and Post for these great tips. We at Team Marti hope you and your family have a wonderful, safe holiday season!