Avoid winter’s nastiest tricks.

 

Wintry weather is great at turning up problems you didn’t even know you had. Like that first snowy night in front of your fireplace that you thought was pure bliss — until you noticed a leak in the ceiling corner, which apparently was caused by a lack of insulation. How were you supposed to know that?

Many homeowners don’t realize they’re making critical missteps that can cost a ton when winter sets in. Here are seven wintertime mistakes homeowners often make (and what they could cost you!):

 

1. Not Buying a $2 Protector for Your Outdoor Faucet

 

 

What It’ll Cost You: Up to $15,000 and a whole lot of grief

It’s amazing what a little frozen water can do damage-wise. An inch of water in your basement can cost up to $15,000 to pump out and dry out. And, yet, it’s so easy to prevent, especially with outdoor faucets, which are the most susceptible to freezing temps.

The simplest thing to do is to remove your garden hose from your outdoor faucet and drain it. Then add a faucet protector to keep cold air from getting into your pipes. They’re really cheap (some are under $2; the more expensive ones are still less than $10). “Get these now,” says Danny Lipford, home improvement expert and host of the “Today’s Homeowner” television and radio shows. “When the weatherman says we’ve got cold coming, they’ll sell out in minutes.”

While you’re at it, make sure any exposed pipes in an unheated basement or garage are insulated, too, or you’ll face the same pricey problem.

Wrap pipes with foam plumbing insulation — before the weather drops. It’s cheap, too, just like the faucet cover (only $1 for six feet of polyethylene insulation). And it’s an easy DIY project, as long as you can reach the pipes.

 

2. Instagramming Your Icicles Instead of Preventing Them

 

What It’ll Cost You: $500 — if you’re lucky; a lot more if you’re not

Those icicles make your home look so picturesque, you just gotta take a few pics. But you better make them quick. Those icicles can literally be a dam problem. (Yes, dam — not the curse word that sounds the same. )

Icicles are a clear sign that you’ve got an ice dam, which is exactly what it sounds like: a buildup of ice on your gutter or roof that prevents melting snow and ice from flowing through your gutters. That’s really bad news because these icy blocks can lead to expensive roofing repairs.

Depending on where you live, expect to pay at least $500 for each ice dam to be steamed off. Leave the ice and you risk long-term damage, which could ultimately cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars to your roof, depending on what type of shingles you have and the size of the damaged area.

How to prevent them? Insulation. “Ice dams, icicles, and ice buildup on the gutters is a symptom of not enough insulation in the attic,” says Chris Johnson, owner of Navarre True Value and several other stores in the Twin Cities area.

And “you need to have at least 14 inches of insulation in your attic, no matter where you live,” says Lipford. If you live in a colder climate, you’ll need more.

If you don’t have the cash to insulate, heated gutter cables, which run between $50 and $150 each, can be a less expensive alternative when temporarily affixed to areas prone to ice damming, Johnson suggests.

 

3. Going Lazy on Your Gutters

 

What It’ll Cost You: You really don’t want to be in a position to find out

It can be so tempting to skip gutter cleanups as winter nears. It seems like as soon as you clear your gutters, they clog right back up again. So what’s the point?

Well, if it looks like you’re living inside a waterfall when it rains, water is missing your gutter system completely. It’s being directed to your foundation instead. And a water-damaged foundation is never, ever cheap to fix.

A contractor can plug foundation cracks for $1,500 to $3,000, says David Verbofsky, director of training for exterior home products manufacturer Ply Gem. But a worse problem, one that requires a foundation excavation or rebuild, can set you back (gulp) $30,000 or more.

Suddenly, cleaning your gutters a few times each fall doesn’t seem so bad. A pro can do the work for anywhere between $70 and $250, depending on the size of your gutter system.

 

4. Giving Cold Air a Chance to Sneak In

 

What It’ll Cost You: Nights where you never feel warm, despite sky-high heating bills

“If it were possible to take every crack on the outside of a typical home and drag them together, you’d have the equivalent of a three-by-three window open all the time,” says Lipford. Yikes.

Yet cracks can be easily and inexpensively sealed with a simple tube of caulk, and it’s available in hundreds of colors to match your window panes, outside siding, and even brick. Not sure where to caulk? Look for visible cracks around:

  • Window sills
  • Baseboards
  • Fireplace or dryer vents
  • Anywhere something inside pokes a hole to the outside

5. Not Getting Personal with Your Thermostat

 

What It’ll Cost You: Money you could spend on something else besides heating

We all know we should, but we seem to have some mental block when it comes to programming our thermostats to align with our schedules. It’s not that hard, and sometimes all it takes is buying a new one that suits you. (Like maybe a Wi-Fi one that’ll give you a little money-saving thrill each time you swipe your app.)

“From a cost-savings perspective, a programmable thermostat is a great investment,” Lipford says — as much as 10% off your energy bill, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

Related: Get tips on choosing and programming a thermostat


6. Skipping Furnace Tune-Ups

 

What It’ll Cost You: A furnace that’ll die years before it should — and higher energy bills

“Forget to service your furnace and you could easily cut five years off the life of your system,” says Lipford, who added that five years is a full third of the typical unit’s life span. New units can cost around $4,000 installed, making the $125 annual maintenance charge a no-brainer.

While you’re at it, don’t forget to replace the furnace filter, which cleans the air in your home, and also keeps your furnace coils cleaner, which can shave up to 15% off your energy bill. Johnson suggests at least every three months, but possibly as often as monthly if you have allergies, pets, or smoke cigarettes at home.

 

7. Foregoing a Fireplace Inspection

 

What It’ll Cost You: Possibly your life — and your home

“A cozy fire is great, but if you don’t maintain your chimney, a fire can cost you thousands of dollars,” says Johnson, not to mention the risk to you and your family.

Schedule your maintenance appointment as early as you can.”If you wait until the busy season, you’ll have a hard time getting them out there, you’ll pay more, and you’ll get a lower quality job,” says Lipford.

 

is a freelance writer who writes about money, home, and investing. Her work has appeared on Forbes.com, the Huffington Post, and Time.com. When she’s not writing, she’s working with her husband to slowly renovate what seems like every square inch of their home.

 

 

 

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These water-saving products make every drop count. Some can even trim your electric bill.

 

Even if you live in an area where water is plentiful, drought can still strike thanks to climate change. In some parts of the country, water conservation is the law, and you can get serious fines — or even have your water service terminated — if you use too much H2O.

To help keep your water usage low (and trim your utility bills in the process), we rounded up seven of the latest water-sipping products that make conserving a no-brainer.

 

1. A Maximum-Performance Toilet

 

Here’s the deal: Your home’s biggest indoor water hog is the toilet. Approximately 30% of a household’s yearly indoor water use is flushed down the loo.

Toilets that were manufactured before 1992 can use up to 6 gallons per flush (gpf), but a commode that’s earned the WaterSense label uses a mere 1.28 gpf. Installing one could reduce the amount of water used for flushing by up to 60%.

Product pick: The Stealth Dual Flush by Niagara. Dual-flush toilets are high-efficiency commodes that save water by providing a separate flush for solid and liquid wastes. The Stealth uses less than a gallon for solids and a mere half-gallon for liquid waste —  almost double the efficiency required by WaterSense. You’ll save nearly 20,000 gallons of H2O and trim yearly water costs by $165.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Image: Niagara Conservation

 

Retail price: $350

Tip: Your toilet is wasting water if its flapper doesn’t close properly. To fix, replace the flapper.

Watch the video to learn more about the Stealth Dual Flush.

 

 

 

 

2. A Sprinkler Controller that Thinks for You

 

Here’s the deal: Up to 50% of our outdoor water use is squandered by overwatering. An irrigation controller helps stop pouring this precious resource down the drain.

The EPA suggests homeowners use an automated, programmable controller set to a watering schedule based on information provided by their local utility. Controllers with Wi-Fi connections go one step further by automatically adjusting watering schedules based on current weather conditions.

Product pick: The Skydrop Sprinkler Controller. Connected to the Internet, the Skydrop creates a custom watering schedule for your lawn based on up-to-date, hyper-local weather data. The manufacturer says homeowners can save up to 75,000 gallons of water per year, based on a 15,000-square-foot yard that’s watered four days per week, 12 months per year

 

 

 

 

Image: Skydrop

 

 

Retail price: $299, but due to high demand there’s a wait list.

Tip: Avoid watering your lawn on windy days when the water blows away.

You can watch the video to learn more about this device.

 

 

 

 

3. A Shower Head with Real Power

 

Here’s the deal: We love hot showers so much that they account for 12% of our indoor water use. While most standard shower heads provide 2.5 gallons per minute (gpm), low-flow shower heads that have earned the WaterSense label use 2.0 gpm or less. Making the switch could save your household around 3,000 gallons of water per year while reducing demand on your home’s hot water heater.

However, low-flows have a problem. They provide users with wimpy showers, according to Consumer Reports. They also plug up easily because the little nozzle holes where the water sprays out are up to 40% smaller than standard shower head nozzles.

Product pick: The High Sierra Showerhead is a 1.5 gpm low-flow solution that uses a patented single nozzle to create a powerful shower. Users say it rinses soapy long hair just like a 2.5 gpm shower head.

A shower head that uses 2.0 gpm can save homeowners $70 on water costs and up to 370 kilowatt hours of electricity per year (enough to power a house for 13 days!) The High Sierra raises the ante, claiming to save about 25% more on water and electricity annually.

 

4. The Shower of the Future

Here’s the deal: Shower systems that recycle greywater can slash the amount of H2O and even electricity wasted while taking a hot shower.

Product pick: Instead of allowing water to go down the drain, the OrbSys Shower uses a closed-loop, recirculating system to capture and recycle used shower water. The shower’s filtration system purifies the water, making it cleaner than when it was first piped in. Afterwards, the water is pumped back up to the shower head as needed.

Because the capture and cleaning process keeps the heated water from cooling, the manufacturer claims it can save up to 80% of the electricity used to heat a standard shower.

 

To see the rest of the article, click here!

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The ultimate timeline ensures the smoothest of transitions to home ownership.

 

A real yard. Closets bigger than your average microwave. The freedom to decorate however you darn well please! Making the switch from renting to owning is exhilarating, but many rookie homebuyers find the process trickier to navigate than they expected.

This is why we created our First-Time HomeBuyer Checklist. The 12-month timeline will help you sidestep common mistakes, like paying too much interest or getting stuck with the wrong house. (Yep, it happens!)

 

 

12 Months Out

 

 

Check your credit score.Get a copy of your credit report at annualcreditreport.com. The three credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion) are each required to give you a free credit report once a year. A Federal Trade Commission study found one in four Americans identified errors on their credit report, and 5% had errors that could lead to higher rates on loans. Avoid last-minute bombshells by checking your score long before you’re ready to make an offer. And work diligently to correct any mistakes.

 

Determine how much you can afford. Figure out how much house you can afford and want to afford. Lenders look for a total debt load of no more than 43% of your gross monthly income (called the debt-to-income ratio). This figure includes your future mortgage and any other debts, such as a car loan, student loan, or revolving credit cards.

There are plenty of calculators on the web to help you determine what you can afford. If you’re pushing the limits, start reducing your debt-to-income ratio now. To get a reality check on what you may actually be spending every month, use this worksheet.

 

Make a down payment plan. Most conventional mortgages require a 20% down payment. If you can swing it, do it. Your loan costs will be much less, and you’ll get a better interest rate. If, however, you’re not quite able to save the full amount, there are many programs that can help. FHA offers loans with only a 3.5% down payment. But they require mortgage insurance premiums, which will drive up your monthly payments. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) provides a list of nonprofit homebuying programs by state. Also check with credit unions; and your employer might even have an assistance program.

As you’re planning your savings strategy, keep in mind that banks like you to “season” your money. That is, they like to see that you’ve had stable funds in your account for 60 to 90 days before applying for a loan. Don’t worry: You can still use a financial gift from a family member or bonus received near the time you buy.

 

Related: 5 Ways You Didn’t Know You Could Save for a Down Payment

 

 

 

 

9 Months Out

 

 

Prioritize what you most want in your new home. What’s most important in your new home? Proximity to work? A big backyard? An open floor plan? Being on a quiet street? You’ll make a much better decision on what home to buy if you focus on your priorities. If it’s a joint decision, now is the time to work out any differences to avoid frustration and wasted time. Perhaps most important: Know what trade-offs you’re willing to make.

Research neighborhoods and start visiting open houses. But now’s when the fun begins, too. Use property listing sites, such as realtor.com, to find out about neighborhoods, public transport, and cost of living.

Start visiting open houses to get an idea of what kind of homes are in your price range and what neighborhoods appeal the most. Seeing potential homes will also keep you motivated to continue reducing your debts and saving for your down payment.

Budget for miscellaneous homebuying expenses. Buying a home has some miscellaneous upfront costs. A home inspection, title search, propery survey, and home insurance are examples. Costs vary by locale, but expect to pay at least a few hundred dollars. If you don’t have the cash, start saving now.

Start a home maintenance account. Speaking of saving, start the good habit now of putting a little aside each month to fund maintenance, repairs, and home emergencies. It’s bad enough to have to call a plumber. It’s worse if you’re paying credit card interest on that plumbing bill.

 

 

6 Months Out

 

 

Collect your loan paperwork. Banks are very particular when it comes to mortgage loans. They demand a lot of paperwork. What they’ll want from you includes:

  • W-2 forms — or business tax return forms if you’re self-employed — for the last two to three years
  • Personal tax returns for the past two to three years
  • Your most recent pay stubs
  • Credit card and all loan statements
  • Your bank statements
  • Addresses for the past five to seven years
  • Brokerage account statements for the most recent two to four months
  • Most recent retirement account statements, such as 401(k)

If you start collecting these documents now, it’ll lessen the stress when it’s time to get your loan. Bonus: Looking closely at your loan documents each month will also help you stay focused on saving for your down payment and keeping your debt-to-income ratio low.

Research lenders and REALTORS®. Start interviewing REALTORS®, specifically buyers’ agents. A buyer’s agent will work in your best interest to find you the right property, negotiate with the seller’s agent, and shepherd you through the closing process. Your agent also can be instrumental in finding a lender who’s familiar with first-time home buyer programs.

Even better, look for a mortgage broker, who will shop for a competitive loan rate for you among multiple lenders, unlike a bank, which can only offer its own products.

 

 

3 Months Out

 

 

Image: Jesse Keen

 

Get pre-approved for your loan. At this point, if you’ve been following this timeline, your credit score, paperwork, and down payment should be on track. You’ve done your research on lenders and buyers’ agents. Now it’s time to start working with them. First you’ll need to get pre-approved for a mortgage.

Make an appointment with your lender or mortgage broker and bring all your paperwork. He’ll run a credit check on you and tell you how much of a loan you’re approved for. It often makes sense to borrow less than the maximum the lender allows so you can live comfortably. Draft a budget that accounts for mortgage payments, insurance, maintenance, and everything else you have going on in your life.

Start shopping for your new home. One you’re pre-approved, the buyer’s agent you’ve chosen will be able to target homes that meet your priorities in your price range. This way you won’t be wasting time looking at homes you can’t afford.

 

 

2 Months Out

 

 

Make an offer on a home.It usually takes at least four to six weeks to close on a home. So if you have a firm move-out date, allow enough time to deal with any hiccups that can delay closing.

Get a home inspection. One of the first things you’ll want to do after an offer is accepted is have a home inspector look at the property. If the home inspector finds something that needs repair, that’s a common example of something that can delay closing.

 

 

In the Last Month

 

 

Triple-check that all your financial documents are in order and review all lending documents before closing. You’re in the home stretch! If you’ve been keeping your documents up to date, and your down payment is in reserve, these final steps are the easiest. Reviewing the mortgage documents is probably the most difficult. Your agent can help guide you through them.

Get insurance for your new home. Don’t forget to secure insurance before closing. You’ll need to bring proof of insurance to closing.

Do a final walk-through. Do a final walk-through of your new home, usually a day or two before closing, to make sure the home is in the shape you and the seller have agreed upon.

Get a cashier’s check or bank wire for cash needed at closing. Make sure you get an exact amount of cash needed for closing. You’ll get that number a few days before closing so you can secure a cashier’s check or arrange to have the money wired. Regular checks aren’t accepted.

 

 

 

That’s it. Congratulations!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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9 Feelings That are Totally Normal When You Sell Your House
Selling a home has its moments of joy and frustration.

 

Here’s what most people experience.

 

 

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A rise in home purchase contracts and relatively low inventory bodes well for sellers heading into the spring market.

 

Improved buyer demand at the beginning of 2015 pushed pending home sales in January to their highest level since August 2013, according to the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®. All major regions except for the Midwest saw gains in activity in January.

 

NAR’s Pending Home Sales Index measures the number of homes that have sold, but not yet made it to the closing table. Real estate purchase contracts climbed 1.7% in January and are up 8.4% from this time last year. This marks the fifth consecutive month of year-over-year gains with each month accelerating the previous month’s gain.

 

Homebuyers continue to face a tight supply of homes for sale, particularly entry-level homes, in many housing markets, according to NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun. But having pending sales rise, despite the fact that in many markets buyers have limited choices, bodes well for homeowners looking to sell this spring.

 

“Contract activity is convincingly up compared with a year ago despite comparable inventory levels,” he said. “The difference this year is the positive factors supporting stronger sales, such as slightly improving credit conditions, more jobs and slower price growth.”

 

Yun also points to more favorable conditions for traditional buyers entering the market. Investors, who often offer appealing cash deals to homesellers, are less active. Fewer all-cash buyers make for less competition for homebuyers who purchase with a mortgage.

 

“All indications point to modest sales gains as we head into the spring buying season,” said Yun. “However, the pace will greatly depend on how much upward pressure the impact of low inventory will have on home prices. Appreciation anywhere near double digits isn’t healthy or sustainable in the current economic environment.”

 

NAR predicts 5.26 million homes will change hands in the year ahead, an increase of 6.4% from 2014. The national median existing home price for all of this year is expected to increase around 5%.

 

Read more:http://www.houselogic.com/blog/support-home-ownership/pending-home-sales-swell-highest-level-18-months/

 

Article Provided by Houselogic.com

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Copyright 2014 NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®

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A few days again, I had the privilege of spending some time with Angela Hawkins, and meeting Stephanie Boyle of Caruso Homes.  As I was talking with Angela, I could tell that she really enjoys representing the Caruso Homes brand, and after my tour, I could understand why.

 

Caruso Homes may be relatively “young,” the real Caruso story begins with a tradition of old world craftsmanship that began in the 1800′s, in a small town in Italy. Their founders’ skills were passed down to them by their forebears, inextricably bound to the pride that can only be found in a job well done.

 

Today, Caruso Homes is known for staying on top of industry trends and technology. Their expertly trained, award-winning professionals, like Angela Hawkins & Stephanie Boyle, rely on state-of-the-art computer analyses–as well as years of hard-earned experience. This unswerving commitment is indeed the hallmark of Caruso Homes.

 

The community that I toured was the Indianhead Woods with Ms. Hawkins.  This community will offer 13 luxury single family homes starting in the $300’s. These beautifully crafted homes will range from 3,719 to 6,100 square feet on 1/3 to 1 acre wooded home sites. Indianhead Woods is located right off of Route 210-Indianhead Highway in Accokeek Maryland. This great location is only minutes to 495 and an easy commuting distance to DC, Southern Maryland and Northern Virginia.

 

She also has the Belle Oak Estates. Belle Oak Estates is Accokeek’s hidden treasure. This tranquil community offers 48 gorgeous wooded home sites that are up to one acre. With seven beautifully crafted floor plans to choose from, the community has something for everyone! Belle Oak Estates is only minutes from Southern Maryland and the National Harbor. Belle Oak Estates is also an easy commuting distance to 495, DC and Northern Virginia.

 

The other community that I toured was Timber Ridge with Ms. Boyle. A true sense of community is what you will find in Timber Ridge with sidewalk-lined streets, quaint streetlights, common-ground area with Gazebo, trees and plenty of open area. Enjoy this hometown feeling just 10 minutes from I-495 and metro in Clinton, Md. At Timber Ridge, classic design and modern style combine to create the only place you’ll ever want to call home. Set upon 1/4-acre lots in Clinton, Maryland, these residences have the address and the elegance to enhance your life. Accessibility to the Beltway and Washington, D.C., couldn’t be easier from Timber Ridge. Come into this community and find luxury appointments that highlight the craftsmanship Caruso is known for.

 

To really get my point across on the craftsmanship that Caruso Homes offers, Ms. Boyle allowed me to do a video tour of one of her move-in ready homes.

 

 

 

For more information about Indianhead Woods & Belle Oak Estates communities, please contact:

 

Angela Hawkins
15403 Indian Hill Road
Accokeek, MD 20607
Office: (301) 955-6026
Mobile: (301) 292-2204
Email: ahawkins@carusohomes.com

 

For more information about the Timber Ridge community, please contact:

 

Stephanie Boyle
6601 Cork Tree Way
Clinton, MD 20735
Phone: (301) 599-7811
Email: sboyle@carusohomes.com

 

Now if neither of these locations work for you, give me a call, and I will help you find one that does.

 

Special thanks to Mr. Anthony Hackett for yet another AMAZING video. He can be reached at:

 

Anthony Hackett
Phone: 301-377-4098
Email: anthonyhackett@gmail.com

 

Posted in Buyers, New Home Builders | 1 Comment

Understand how a home security system works and how to choose professional installation that best fits your needs and budget.

 

 

Every 23 seconds, a house is burgled in the United States, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

 

Each break-in costs home owners an average of $2,200 in stolen personal goods and possessions.

 

 

A $250 to $700 home security system can provide a powerful deterrent: it sends the message that your house won’t be an easy target, and gives crooks a strong incentive to pick another place.

 

 

 

 

 

 

How a home security system works

A home security system works like this: a keypad in your house’s entryway communicates with sensors and motion detectors around the home. The brain of the system—the control panel—is installed in the attic or utility room.

If an intruder breaks a window or kicks in a door:

  • The sensor sends signals to the control panel, which typically uses your phone line to contact an off-site monitoring station.
  • Simultaneously, it sets off an ear-splitting siren within the house.
  • Staffers call the house immediately and ask for a password.
  • If there’s no response, or if the person who picks up the phone gives the wrong password, monitors will notify the police.

 

Types of installers

Once you’ve elected to invest in a home security system, you’ll need to decide whether to go with a national installer or a local company. Security experts recommend choosing a company with at least ten years’ experience. Either way, you’ll spend $35 to $75 per month on monitoring fees.

  • National firms boast that their call centers are fully redundant, which means if a center in Oshkosh loses power, the Vancouver center will pick up the slack.
  • Local installers are going to be close by, and those companies have an incentive to do a great job in order to maintain their reputation in the community.
  • Full service companies—ones that operate and control all aspects of your home security system, from installation to service and monitoring—generally provide good personalized care and attention to detail.

 

Before you sign a contract:

  • Talk to neighbors who own a home security system about their installer; if you’re new in town, ask firms for letters of reference.
  • Choose a company that offers 24-hour repair service.
  • Finally, educate yourself online before making a call; websites my Home Security & Automation web page for useful information about home security systems.
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Image: HouseLogic

 

You know that 10 or 20 pounds that you just can’t seem to lose? You do the right thing — eat kale or log time on the StairMaster — but the weight clings.  You feel powerless.
It’s like that with our energy bills, too. Eighty-nine percent of us think we’re not using as much energy as we did 5 years ago, and almost one-half of us think our homes are energy efficient. But 59% also say our energy bills have gone up, according to consumer research by the Shelton Group, a marketing and advertising agency that specializes in energy-efficiency issues.

 

Call that the Snackwell’s effect, says Shelton Group CEO Suzanne Shelton. Basically, we’re saying, “I bought these CFLs so now I can leave the lights on and not pay more. I bought a high-efficiency washer and dryer because I want to do more laundry without paying more. I ate the salad, so I can have the chocolate cake.”

 

Unfortunately, that disconnect has led to defeat. We feel victimized by our energy bills and powerless to the point where we’re making fewer energy-efficient improvements. In fact, Shelton’s research shows consumers made only 2.6 improvements in 2012 compared with 4.6 in 2010.

 

Until the day we all get energy dashboards in our home, we’re here to help you understand why your energy costs are where they are and how you can take back your energy bills.

 

Hint: You need to do four or five energy-efficient things to see a difference; one or two won’t cut it. But — good news! — they don’t cost much to do.

 

Another Helpful Tip: Now that the energy market is being deregulated, you know can get a lower cost per kilowatt hour.  Visit XOOM Energy and see how much you can save today!

 

Related: Are Smart Meters Dangerous?

 

Why Do We Feel Victimized?

 

We don’t know what we’re buying. Energy is the only product we buy on a daily basis for which we have no idea how much we pay until a month later, says Cliff Majersik, executive director of the Institute for Market Transformation, a research and policy-making nonprofit focused on improving buildings’ energy efficiency.

 

Energy costs are going up. Inflation is mainly to blame. Your bills are projected to rise on average 2% per year through 2040, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the research arm of the energy department. Expect about 3.4% per year if the economy gets sluggish.

 

Other trends pushing up our energy usage:

  • A growing population means more homes.
  • New homes are getting bigger, though our families are getting smaller, according to the Census Bureau.
  • We’re plugging in more devices (computers, smart phones, tablets, X-boxes, plasma TVs) per household — and not unplugging them. (More on behavior later.)

In fact, for the first time, energy use for appliances, electronics, water heating, and lighting accounts for more than heating and cooling, according to EIA.

 

Still, overall consumption is pretty flat through 2040, thanks in part to:

  • Appliance efficiencies.
  • Population migration to dryer, warmer climates in the South and West.
  • People living in multifamily rather than single-family situations.

 

We make assumptions.

 

Assumption #1. Unless a home is old — more than 30 years — we figure it was built to code, which requires a certain amount of energy efficiency. But building codes change pretty regularly, so even newer homes benefit from improvements, says Lee Ann Head, vice president of research and insights with the Shelton Group.

 

Assumption #2. We think utilities are out to get us: They’ll jack up prices no matter what we do. Shelton’s research shows consumers blame utilities above oil companies and the government. But keep this mind: To get rate changes, utilities must make a formal case to public utility commissions. They’re also on the hook to pay for such things as:

  • Infrastructure upgrades put off for years
  • Efficiencies
  • Equipment repairs after bouts of nutty weather
  • Consumer rebates

 

Another reason rates seem stuck is because utilities bundle fuel, service, and delivery fees together.

 

Assumption #3. Our expectations for energy savings are out of whack. When the Shelton Group asked consumers what they would expect to recoup if they invested $4,000 in energy-efficient home improvements, they said about 75% to 80%.

 

Sorry, unless you invest in some kind of renewable energy source like geothermal and solar, you won’t see that kind of savings. If you do all the right things (we’ll tell you about the best five later), you could expect a 20% to 30% reduction, Head says, particularly if you don’t succumb to the Snackwell’s effect.

 

What does 30% translate into? $660 in savings per year or $55 per month, based on the average household energy spend of $2,200 per year, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

 

Assumption #4. Many of us don’t know how to make the biggest impact on our homes. That’s why we sometimes replace our windows first, when that should probably be fifth or sixth on the list of energy-efficient improvements, Shelton says.

 

There’s nothing wrong with investing in new windows. They feel sturdier; look pretty; increase the value of your home; feel safer than old, crooked windows; and, yes, offer energy savings you can feel (no more draft).

 

But if you spend $9,000 to $12,000 on windows and save 7% to 15% on your energy bill, according to DOE data, when you could have spent around $1,000 for new insulation, caulking, and sealing, and saved 10% to 20% on your energy bill, you made the wrong choice if your only reason for the project was reducing energy costs.

 

The real reasons for getting new windows are “emotional rather than financial,” Shelton says.

 

The 5 Things You Should Do to Show Your Bills Who’s Boss

1. Caulk and seal air leaks. Buy a few cans of Great Stuff and knock yourself out over a weekend, sealing penetrations into your home from:

  • Plumbing lines
  • Electricity wires
  • Recessed lighting
  • Windows
  • Crawlspaces
  • Attics

 

Savings: Up to $220/year, per U.S. EPA

 

Related: The Biggest Air Leak in Your Home You Don’t Know About

 

2. Hire an HVAC contractor to take a hard look at all your ductwork — are there any ducts leaking that need to be resealed? — and give you an HVAC tune-up.

 

Savings: Up to $330/year, for duct sealing and tune up, per DOE

 

3. Program your thermostat. Shelton found that 40% of consumers in her survey admit to not programming their thermostat to energy-saving settings. She thinks it’s even higher.

 

Savings: Up to $180/year, per EPA

 

Related: How to Program Your Thermostat to See Real Savings

 

4. Replace all your light bulbs with LEDs or CFLs. We suggest LEDs, which have fewer issues than CFLs (namely, no mercury), and although expensive are coming down in price. We’ve even seen a $10 model.

 

Savings: $75/year by replacing your five most frequently-used bulbs with Energy Star-rated models, says EPA.

 

Related: Guide to Buying Light Bulbs and Which to Use Where

 

5. Reduce the temperature on your water heater. Set your tank heater to 120 degrees — not the 140 degrees most are set to out of the box. Dropping 20 degrees could save 6% to 10% on your annual water heating costs, which are 14% to 18% of your utility bills. Also wrap an older water heater and the hot water pipes in insulating material to save on heat loss.

 

Savings: $18 to $39/year

 

Important note: Resist the urge to total these numbers for an annual savings. The estimated savings for each product or activity can’t be summed because of “interactive effects,” says DOE. If you first replace your central AC with a more efficient one, saving, say, 15% on energy consumption, and then seal ducts, you wouldn’t save as much total energy on duct sealing as you would have if you had first sealed them. There’s just less energy to save at that point.

 

But these practices can help you achieve the goal of shaving 20% to 30% of your annual bill ($440-$660).

 

Energy Savings is Addictive. What Else Can We Do?

 

If you want to go further and spend more, especially if you’re not planning to sell your home soon:

  • Add insulation. Anything you can do to shore up your building envelope is good.
  • If major appliances like your HVAC and water heater are nearing the end of their useful life, research energy-efficient replacements and keep the info where you’ll remember. Otherwise, you’ll make a reactive purchase when the unit finally breaks.
  • Contact your utility about rebates for investing in improvements. Or visit DSIRE, a database of federal, state, local, and utility rebates searchable by state. Energy Star has a discount and rebate finder, too.

 

 

A Final Word: Oh, Behave!

Remember the Snackwell’s effect? If your behavior — unplugging chargeable devices from the socket when they’re done charging; putting computers, TVs, and media on smart strips and turning them off at once; reprogramming your thermostat at daylight savings time — doesn’t support your improvements, you’re letting energy, an invisible product, win.

 

Related:

 

 

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Got bathroom mold? Here’s how to get rid of it and prevent future infestations, too.

 

If you already have a mold problem, strip away and replace any caulk or sealant that has mold growth. Image: Utah Deal Diva

If you’ve never experienced bathroom mold, perhaps you aren’t looking deep enough into the corners of your bathroom.

It’s one of the most common problems in any house; it’s also one of the easiest to prevent and cure — as long as you haven’t let it get out of hand.

“Bathroom mold occurs primarily because mold loves damp, dark, isolated spaces,” says Larry Vetter of Vetter Environmental Services in Smithtown, N.Y. “Typically, a bathtub, shower, or entire bathroom remains damp enough for mold growth just from showering or bathing.”

 

Common Causes of Bathroom Mold

  • Lingering moisture caused by lack of ventilation.
  • Damp cellulose materials such as rugs, paper products, wood, wallpaper, grout, drywall, and fabric.

 

So how do you know if you have a mold problem? Matt Cinelli, owner/operator of AERC Removals in North Attleboro, Mass., says, “If you can see it or smell it, you’ve got it.”

 

Finding the Mold in Your Bathroom

Bathroom mold isn’t always obvious. Check out hidden areas, such as under sinks, access doors to shower and bath fixtures, around exhaust fans, even in crawl spaces and basements underneath bathrooms.

“It could be starting in the bathroom but actually forming in another room,” says Cinelli, adding that lack of proper ventilation is the biggest culprit for mold growth.

 

Preventing Mold

The best defense is preventing mold from occurring in the first place. Yashira Feliciano, director of housekeeping for Conrad Conado Plaza Hotel in San Juan, Puerto Rico, offers the following tips for keeping mold out of your bathroom:

  • Use your bathroom ventilation fan when you shower or bathe, and leave it on for 30 minutes following the end of your bath; if you don’t have an exhaust fan, install one.
  • Use a mildew-resistant shower curtain, and wash or replace it frequently.
  • Don’t keep bottles of shampoo or shower gel, toys, or loofahs in the shower, as they provide places for mold to grow and hide.
  • Wash your bathroom rugs frequently.

 

Getting Rid of Mold

What do you do if mold growth is already a problem? As long as the infestation isn’t large, you can take remedial measures yourself:

  • Strip away and replace any caulking or sealant that has mold growth.

 

If you have a problem area bigger than 10 sq. ft., refer to guidelines from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency or call in a professional.

 

“When you see it creeping into walls and insulation, you need a professional,” says Cinelli, who notes that tearing out walls (which may be necessary for a big problem) can release mold spores into the rest of the house and create an even bigger issue.

 

“The idea is to kill it and then remove it,” he says. “And the most important thing is to figure out why you have it before you clean it up.”

 

Read more: http://www.houselogic.com/home-advice/bathrooms/bathroom-mold/#ixzz2qTjmBffS

 

Article Provided by Houselogic.com

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