Category Archives: Heating/Cooling

Team Marti’s 10 Tips for Using Smart Home Technology

Team Marti’s 10 Tips for Using Smart Home Technology

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:

  1. Manage your smart home devices on a secure home WiFi network.
  2. 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.
  3. Smart lights, which are all LEDs, use a lot less electricity than other light bulbs.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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!

11 Holiday and Winter Fire Safety Tips

Team Marti: 11 Holiday and Winter Fire Safety TipsThe 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.

  1. 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.
  2. Only turn on your holiday lights when someone is home, and be sure to turn them off before you go to bed each night.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. Have your fireplace serviced every year, including cleaning and masonry repair.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.).
  11. 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!

10 DIY Tips to Keep Your Home Toasty Warm This Winter

Fall ended a bit early for us this year, and winter weather is already at our door. That means cold nights, and higher heating bills. Here are 10 tips for keeping your home toasty warm this winter without driving up your heating bill.

  1. 10 DIY Tips to Keep Your Home Toasty Warm This WinterChange your furnace filter. During the heating season, it is a good idea to change your furnace filters monthly, or try washable filters and clean them as recommended by the manufacturer. This simple, affordable fix can keep you more comfortable while also saving energy.
  2. Reverse the direction on ceiling fans. By switching the setting on your ceiling fan to clockwise, your fan can push warmer air toward the floor. This is particularly helpful if you have high ceilings.
  3. Lower your thermostat. For every one degree you lower the temperature, you can save approximately 3 percent on your heating bill. Also, use a programmable thermostat, so you can lower the temperature even further when you are sleeping and away from home. Set it up to warm up your home before you are scheduled to return for the evening.
  4. Lower your hot water temperature. Adjust your hot water heater from the standard 140 degrees to 120 degrees and consider taking showers, not baths. Showers use much less water.
  5. Seal air leaks. By controlling the amount of outside air that comes into your home, you can help control moisture and keep your home warm in the winter. Caulk and weatherstrip doors and windows, use foam sealant on larger window and baseboard gaps, and keep the fireplace flue damper closed when you’re not using the fireplace. Click here for more air leakage tips from Energy.gov.
  6. Install door sweeps. To prevent cold air from entering your home from underneath doors, make sure that each door and threshold are adequate. If not, install a door sweep along the bottom of the door.
  7. Take advantage of the sun. When the sun is shining during the day, open drapes and blinds to soak up as much of that natural energy as you can.
  8. Keep heating vents clear. Sometimes furniture is inadvertently placed in front of heating vents, preventing warm air from warming a room. Move furniture away from vents so it can circulate properly around the room.
  9. Use space heaters where appropriate. For small spaces, sometimes a space heater can help heat the room. Be careful though. Space heaters can be fire hazards, so choose the make and model carefully and make sure it is always attended. Check the energy consumption of the heater you select too. Sometimes they use more energy than you might expect.
  10. Use window insulation film. Using a pre-packaged kit, put plastic shrink film on the inside of your windows to keep the cold out and the heat in!

Sources:

This Old House, https://www.thisoldhouse.com/ideas/keeping-warm-less
Energy.gov, http://www.energy.gov/energysaver/air-sealing-your-home
The Art of Manliness, http://www.artofmanliness.com/2014/11/14/how-to-keep-your-house-warm-in-the-winter/
Apartment Therapy, http://www.apartmenttherapy.com/5-ways-to-insulate-your-windows-for-winter-37643

Fall Home Maintenance Checklist: Interior and Exterior

Make sure your home is ready for fall weather with this handy fall home maintenance checklist:

Home Interior Fall Maintenance Tips

  • Fall Home Maintenance ChecklistReplace furnace filters and have your furnace and fireplace serviced before you need them.
  • Do a fall safety check by testing smoke and carbon monoxide detectors and change batteries. Safety experts recommend you do this when the time changes twice a year, so you don’t forget.
  • Seal cracks and gaps around windows and doors in your home and basement with caulking or weather stripping. This will save energy and preserve heat in your home during the colder months.
  • Check the weather stripping around your garage door.
  • Reverse the direction of any ceiling fans so there is an upward draft. This will help redistribute heat that rises to the ceiling.
  • Store portable air conditioning units and clean and cover central air units.
  • Clean your humidifiers throughout the season to keep them free of bacteria and other germs.

Home Exterior Fall Maintenance Tips

  • Drain outside faucets and hoses, and do any repairs or maintenance to sprinkler systems.
  • Clean gutters and downspouts, so they can handle the fall rain without getting clogged. If you have old or damaged gutters, make repairs or replacements as soon as possible. New models have built-in leaf guards which will save you from hours of labor and your home from clogged gutters in the future.
  • Where possible, direct drainage away from the home. Consider a rain garden to improve drainage on your property while also protecting our waterways from pollution.
  • Check the exterior of your home, garage, shed and any other outbuildings for peeling or blistering paint. Make repairs or repaint in try weather. We recommend hiring a professional painter because this can be a time-consuming task.
  • Have your roof inspected for loose, damaged or missing shingles. Harsh fall storms and winter weather can compound any existing problems, so it is better to make repairs as soon as possible.
  • Do fall lawn maintenance including preparing your lawn and gardens for winter, trimming back trees and bushes that could get damaged by fall and winter winds, and rake autumn leaves which you can then use for compost or mulch. Fertilize your lawn for spring.
  • Check your driveway, sidewalk and patio for cracks. Make any necessary repairs.
  • Drain fuel from gas-powered lawn equipment like leaf blowers, lawn mowers, edgers and chain saws.
  • Clean and store patio, porch and deck furniture.

Yes, this seems like a lot of work, but preventative maintenance can save homeowners time and money down the road. And remember – you don’t have to do it yourself. There are plenty of highly skilled contractors throughout the Kent, Covington, Maple Valley, Auburn and Renton area. If you need recommendations, let us know. Team Marti can offer suggestions!

 

7 Tips for Selling Your House in the Fall

Kent Realtor Marti Reeder: 7 Tips for Selling Your House in the FallThough the real estate market slows down a bit in the fall, it is still a good time to sell your home, especially in the greater Seattle area where home inventory and interest rates are both low. Here are some tips to help you prepare your home for sale.

 1. Clean up the exterior of your home. This means keeping your lawn, trees and shrubs neatly groomed, clearing out any flowers and plants that didn’t survive the summer, and keeping the leaves raked. It is also a good time to wash exterior windows, power wash the outside of your home, your front porch and deck.

2. Make the front of your home inviting. Don’t underestimate the value of curb appeal. You want the exterior of your home to be neat and clean, but you also want it to be inviting. This might mean putting flowers or plants (pumpkins even!) on your front porch, adding a seasonal wreath to your front door, giving your mailbox or front door a fresh coat of paint or replacing the old faded address numbers with something more attractive.

3. Clean your home’s interior, top to bottom. We always hear about spring cleaning, but fall cleaning is just as important. Give your home a thorough cleaning, including windows, blinds, ceiling fans, baseboards, floors, walls, if needed, etc. If you don’t have time, ask your Realtor® to refer you to a professional house cleaner in your area. It is well worth the money.

4. Declutter, depersonalize and organize your home, garage and any outbuildings. By doing so, potential buyers can more easily envision themselves in your home.

5. Prepare your home for fall weather. Take out or store window or portable air conditioners, replace screens with storm windows if your home has them, clean out your gutters, store your patio furniture, and consider having your furnace serviced.

6. Do minor repairs. This goes hand in hand with preparing your home for fall weather. Do the windows need caulking? Do any of the screens need repairing or replacing? Are any of your light fixtures broken or in need of an updated look?

7. Add seasonal touches to your home’s interior. This could mean a fall floral arrangement in your entryway, cozy autumn-colored throws in the family room, or a bowl of fall fruits on your kitchen counter. You could also take advantage of fall scents with candles or air fresheners – apple, cinnamon, pumpkin, etc.

During the initial walk-through of your home, your Realtor® can make additional suggestions for improving and staging your home to put the focus on its very best features. Happy selling!

 

Homebuyer Tool: Final Walk-Through Checklist

 

Do a Final Walk-Through Before Closing

Homebuyer Tool: Final Walk-Through Checklist

You’ve done it! You’ve found your dream home, and you are almost ready to sign the papers that will make it yours. While you are anxious to close the deal and move in, there is one critical last step before you do so – a final walk-through. You might be tempted to use this opportunity to give the house one more cursory glance as you plan where you’ll put your furniture, but this is your last chance to make sure the home is in good shape and that any repairs or changes have been made as agreed.

  1. Heating and Cooling Systems. Check to be sure that the heating and cooling systems in the home work, no matter what the season. You don’t want to wait until winter to know that the furnace or heat pump isn’t working.
  2. Plumbing. Turn on every faucet and showerhead and flush all the toilets. Do they all work? Is anything leaking? Is the water pressure appropriate? If not, make a note of it.
  3. Electrical Systems. Turn on all the lights and ceiling fans, find the fuse box and check to be sure that switch plates, fixtures, etc. are in place. If anything is missing, jot it down.
  4. Appliances. Are the appliances in good working order? Make sure that any appliances that are staying work. Turn on the dishwasher, make sure the refrigerator and freezer are cold, give the dryer a spin, test the garbage disposal, and check the microwave and bathroom fans.
  5. Home Security. If the home has a security system, is it working? Does the keypad work? How about the remotes? Do you know where everything is and do you have instructions on how to change passcodes, etc. once the home is yours?
  6. Windows and Doors. Open every window and door to ensure there aren’t any problems, and make sure you have keys to each door. Are the screens and storm windows intact? If the home has an electric garage door opener, check that too and be sure you have access to all remotes.
  7. Landscaping and Lawn Care. Check to be sure that the lawn has been left as you agreed to it. Make note of any problems with the fencing and, if there is a watering system, check to be sure that it works. Is anything missing?
  8. Repairs. If the current homeowner agreed to make any repairs prior to selling the home, or if the inspection required repairs or upgrades as a condition of sale, follow up to be sure these repairs have been made. Also, if the homeowner agreed to leave the ceiling fan, curtains or other items, check to be sure they are still in the home.
  9. Overall Condition of the Home. Is the home clean? Have all of the previous owner’s property been removed? If not, let your Realtor® know.

Make sure you have your Realtor along when you do the final walk-through, so she can serve as the liaison between you and the sellers should there be a problem. You’ll want to get everything resolved prior to closing. Enjoy your new home!

Sources:  Money Crashers, Realtor Magazine and Zillow

 

 

 

16 Ways to Beat the Summer Heat Without Air Conditioning

16 Ways to Beat the Summer Heat, Even Without Air ConditioningAccording to the Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance (NEEA), only 20% of Northwest Washington homeowners have air conditioning, with 42% cooling their homes through a heat pump in 2012. Compare this to Eastern Washington homes where 65% have air conditioning with 52% of those having central air, or Southwest Washington where 40% of homes had air conditioning via heat pump.

Wow – only 20% have air conditioning! Until a few years ago, we only had high summer temps a few weeks every summer, but in the last three or four years, we have many more hot days than we used to. In fact, in April, the Seattle area broke high-temperature records by hitting 89 degrees, according to the National Weather Service. Now that’s hot!

Even if you love the heat, it can make daily life less pleasant at times. For the 80% of homeowners in Northwest Washington without air conditioning, we offer 16 ways for staying cool this summer.

  1. Keep blinds and curtains closed to block out the sun. You’ll stay cooler and save on energy costs.
  2. Set your ceiling fans to rotate counter-clockwise and at a higher speed during the summer.
  3. Close off rooms that get sun during the hottest part of the day, and allow those rooms to cool at night.
  4. On cooler summer evenings, open your windows to let the breeze in.
  5. Create a cross-breeze inside your home by strategically placing your fans.
  6. Replace your heavy winter and fall sheets with lightweight cotton sheets to keep your bed cooler.
  7. Make your own air conditioner by putting a shallow bowl with ice in front of a fan to create a cool mist.
  8. Turn off and unplug personal electronics and small appliances, which can radiate heat, when not in use. Every little bit helps!
  9. Don’t use your stove or oven for cooking. Instead, make meals that don’t require heat (sandwiches, salads, etc.), or that you can microwave indoors or grill outside instead.
  10. Staying hydrated with ice water will help keep your body temperature cool.
  11. Keep frozen treats on hand – popsicles, slushies, smoothies, etc.
  12. Make space in your refrigerator and/or freezer for wet washcloths, sheets and other little luxuries you can grab to cool off when the heat gets unbearable.
  13. Cool or cold showers, if you can stand them, can also help bring down your body’s temperature before bed time.
  14. Take a dip in the pool, run through a lawn sprinkler, visit a water park or wade in a local lake.
  15. Swap out incandescent light bulbs, which give off heat, and replace them with compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs), which are cooler and more environmentally friendly. Learn how to choose the best CFLs at Energy Star.
  16. Make improvements that will help keep your home cooler in the long-term, such as planting shade trees strategically or adding awnings or outdoor shades to shield your home from the sun.

If these tips aren’t enough to help you beat the worst days of the heat, go to an air conditioned restaurant for dinner, hang out at the library or movie theater when the heat is at its worst, or offer to bring takeover to your friends who have air conditioning!

Sources: NEEA, MyNorthwest.com, Huffington Post, Greatist, Lifehacker

 

5 Tips to Get Your Home Ready for a Summer Sale

5 Tips to Get Your Home Ready for a Summer SalePeople say that spring is the best time to sell your home, but Realtor.com says that 50% of homes are sold during the summer! June, in particular, tends to be the best time to sell your home. In fact, according to Trulia, June is 29% busier than any other month when it comes to real estate.

Home asking prices tend to peak at the beginning of the season, and in our current market, demand exceeds supply so quality homes are the first to go. Summer is also a good time for families with school-aged, so children can adapt to their new environment before the school year begins in late summer/early fall.

Ready to sell? Here are some ways to prepare your home for sale:

  1. Do necessary and obvious repairs, inside and out, including repairing leaking gutters, fixing chipped paint, cleaning floors, replacing broken tile, and repairing loose deck boards and cracks in the driveway.
  2. Declutter and depersonalize. Prospective homebuyers find it easier to imagine themselves in your home if it has a neutral feel of it, so put away the kids’ sports photos, collections and crafts. This is also a good time to declutter. It will help you get organized for the move, and it will make your home more appealing to home buyers.
  3. Focus on curb appeal. Realtors® talk about this a lot, but you want your home to look its best for seller photos, buyer drive-bys and open houses. This means maintaining a well-manicured lawn with seasonal flowers, a tidy front porch and a clean and cozy entry way.
  4. Stage your home for sale. In the Pacific Northwest, outdoor living in the summertime is a great way to extend the living space of your home. Hire a professional stager (your Realtor® can recommend someone) to stage the interior and exterior of your home. For example, stage the BBQ area with a nice set of tools and other BBQ accessories, keep your patio furniture clean and organize it in a cozy seating arrangement, and consider upgrading your outdoor décor.
  5. Keep it cool. When your Realtor® hosts an open house, make sure the air temperature in your home is comfortable. If it is hot out, turn on central air, if you have it. If you don’t have air conditioning, turn on your ceiling fans and open the windows to let in the fresh air. A pitcher of lemonade and freshly-baked cookies can’t hurt either!

If you’re ready to sell your home this summer, call a trusted, local Realtor for more tips on preparing your home for sale.

Summer Landscaping: 7 Tips for a Beautiful Yard

Summer Landscaping: 7 Tips for a Beautiful YardIt may still be spring, but we are experiencing some lovely summer weather. This is the perfect time to make sure your landscaping is up to par, so your lawn and gardens look beautiful year-round. This is particularly important if you are considering selling your home this year. Here are some summer yard maintenance and landscaping tips to get and keep your yard in tip top shape:

  1. Trim away dead or hanging branches. This improves the appearance and overall health of your trees, as well as preventing safety hazards from falling limbs.
  2. Check bushes, shrubs, vines and other large plants for overgrowth, particularly those that are close to your house. Untrimmed bushes look uncared for and they can interfere with your central air conditioning unit and trap moisture which can attract pests like termites and mosquitoes. Untrimmed bushes near windows also make good hiding places for burglars too!
  3. Make sure your lawn, trees and plants get sufficient water, but don’t overdo it. See the DIY Network’s “how to” guide for how often to water and how to do so properly.
  4. Reduce summer cooling costs and boost your home’s curb appeal with attractive landscaping. Mature shade trees like maple trees and oak trees can help cool your home, while darker stone can absorb heat better than light stone which reflects the sun.
  5. Add seasonal flowers and shrubs so that you have something in bloom most of the year. One of the great things about living in the Pacific Northwest is that our weather is mild enough to encourage year-round growth. Take advantage by planting bulbs in the fall for spring flowers, and plant annuals or perennials in the spring for year-round color.
  6. Keep your yard neat with regular lawn mowing and sidewalk trimming. In the summertime, you can get away with a slightly lower mower height (3 inches) to keep your lawn mowing to a minimum. Also, use an edging tool to stay on top of weeds and keep your lawn – and sidewalks – looking trim.
  7. Weed early and often. One disadvantage to a long growing season is that weeds can easily get out of control. To get rid of weeds without hurting your back, try using a weeding tool that pulls weeds out at the root!

While summer landscaping and maintenance can take work, it is a wonderful way to take advantage of the warmer weather and to invest in your home. Need some inspiration? Look online at lawn and garden sites or check out Pinterest for ideas for landscaping, gardening, container gardens, outdoor living and more. Good luck and enjoy your beautiful yard this summer!

Save Money at Home with These 10 DIY Home Hacks

Save Money with these 10 DIY Home HacksEveryone likes to save money, especially on expensive home-related projects. With these DIY home hacks, inspired by This Old House, you can save time, money and energy! Here are 10 of our favorite home hacks.

  1. Closing closet doors reduces the square footage your home must heat and cool. Cost: $0. Approximate savings: $50 per year.
  2. Turn down the temperature on your hot water to 120 or 110 degrees. Cost: $0. Approximate savings: $30 or more per year.
  3. Install a dimmer switch and use energy-efficient halogen bulbs instead of incandescent bulbs. It will cost about $10 per switch and $5 per bulb. Approximate savings: about $20 per fixture over 3 years.
  4. Use a microwave to make meals instead of your stove. A microwave consumes about half the power of a stove. Cost: $0. Savings: $40 or more per year.
  5. Insulate hot-water lines using pre-formed foam tubes. Cost: $0.29 to $0.35 per foot of insulation. Approximate savings: $50 per year on your energy bill.
  6. Put your computer to sleep. When you aren’t using your computer, put it in sleep mode manually or adjust the setting on your computer to do it automatically after 10 minutes. Cost: $0. Approximate savings: up to $75 per year off your electric bill. (Bonus tip: laptops use less energy than a desktop PC.)
  7. Plant deciduous (leafy) trees on the south, west or east side of your home. When the tree matures, it will provide natural shade and cooling for your home. Cost: $25 to $70, depending on the species and age of the tree you purchase. Approximate savings: $120 per year on cooling costs once the tree reaches maturity.
  8. Install ceiling fans in living areas (e.g., bedroom, living room, family room, etc.) A ceiling fan can help keep your home cool in the summer, but running it at low speed and clockwise can also help keep your home warmer in the winter. Cost: $30 to $300 at Home Depot. Approximate savings: up to $100 a year.
  9. Buy home-related products in the office season to get the best prices: firewood in the spring, grill, lawn furniture and lawn equipment in the fall, etc. Cost: Varies. Approximate savings: Varies.
  10. Perform annual maintenance on your furnace and air conditioning unit, including professional maintenance and DIY maintenance like replacing furnace filters on schedule. Routine upkeep can help you save energy and money. Cost: Varies. Approximate savings: Varies.

Thanks to Josh Garskof of This Old House magazine for these great DIY home hacks. See the original article for more ideas to save time, money and energy at home.