Tips – Homeowners Insurance Tips and News Fri, 28 Jun 2013 15:01:02 +0000 en-US hourly 1 8 Most Trusted Home Improvement Experts Mon, 11 Jun 2012 21:48:52 +0000 Whether you want to remodel your home, fix a leaky faucet, or reinvent a room, seeking expert advice from a reputable home improvement specialist is a must. Put your next home improvement project in the hands of a top-rated contractor to ensure long lasting results and quality of work. Here are some of the most trusted home improvement experts in America.


  1. Bob Vila

    A prominent name in the home improvement industry, Bob Vila is one of the most trusted contractors in America because of his expertise in home renovations. From 1979 to 1989 he was the host for This Old House where he completely renovated old and historic homes. He went on to host several other shows including Bob Vila’s Home Again, Bob Vila, and Restore America with Bob Vila. He has also written more than a dozen books on rehabilitating homes and other home improvement guides. Today, Bob is launching a new pilot series entitled Building Green, where he educates home owners on the newest green building technologies. Besides appearing on regular television, he is well-versed in carpentry tools, using his knowledge to create his own line of tools, now featured at Sears and the Home Shopping Network. Bob frequently answers any questions homeowners may have online at his webpage, Twitter account, and other social media outlets.


  3. Tom Silva

    Tom Silva has been renovating homes since he was a child, working with his father and brother. Their first project was installing a basement fallout shelter underneath their 1787 colonial home in Massachusetts. With decades of experience in remodeling, renovation, and restoration, Silva has hosted the show This Old House for more than 25 years, contributed to home improvement magazines, and published books. Silva is now a practicing contractor in Boston; he founded his own company, Silva Brothers Construction where he works alongside his brother and nephew.


  5. Karl Champley

    Award winning master builder, building consultant, and environmental home inspector Karl Champley has earned notoriety in the building industry for his projects in residential and commercial construction. Starting off as an apprentice carpenter, he soon gained certificates in structural engineering, earning his master builders license. In 1990, he started his own business, KJC Building Services, earning the Australian Achiever award in 2001. Since then, Karl has been featured on the DIY Network, HGTV, DIY To The Rescue, and Wasted Spaces. He is a great source when it comes to any carpentry needs and advice in the home renovation industry, even judging home improvement competitions across the U.S., Canada, and Australia.


  7. Danny Lipford

    A veteran remodeling contractor, Danny Lipford has been helping homeowners with both small and large projects for many years. As host and executive producer of the show, Today’s Homeowner With Danny Lipford, and the radio show Homefront With Danny Lipford, he provides expert tips and advice on the home improvement process. He has also contributed to The New York Times, Better Homes & Gardens, and other publications, offering guidance on a variety of home topics including design, materials, and key renovation decisions. One of his specialties is demonstrating a variety of “How-to” projects in studio and on location. He has been a home improvement contributor to The Early Show on CBS for more than a decade.


  9. Paul F. Ryan

    A nationally recognized home improvement expert, licensed contractor, home inspector, and insurance adjustor, Ryan has all the experience needed to be the ultimate handy-man. He’s hosted several television shows on the DIY Network, TLC, and HGTV, where he shares his knowledge of carpentry, home remodeling, plumbing, and other aspects of construction. Today, he is a regular and reliable source in newspapers, magazines, TV shows, and online home improvement websites.


  11. Ron Hazelton

    Offering expert home improvement advice, safety concerns, and design/repair issues on The Oprah Winfrey Show and Inside Edition, Ron was actually the pioneer of reality-based, on-location home improvement television when he hosted The House Doctor in 1989. The series was so successful, it ran for more than 200 episodes; then aired for many years after on HGTV. Today, he delivers instant solutions, advice, and how-to content online on his webpage. His simple, straightforward format of instruction has been a hit among home improvement enthusiasts.


  13. Mike Holmes

    Today’s host of HGTV’s Holmes on Holmes, Mike shares his expert knowledge on home repairs, managing large renovations, new-home construction, and sustainability issues. He’s built hurricane resistant homes in New Orleans and trained youth in skilled trades through apprenticeships. He’s also written two successful books and contributes to a weekly newspaper column.


  15. John Gidding

    After earning his masters in architecture from Harvard, Gidding went on to open his own design firm, John Gidding Design Inc. His portfolio includes impressive projects like Union Square in New York, Brooklyn Bridge Park, and the master campus plan for Carnegie Mellon University. Now a host for HGTV’s show, Designed to Sell and Curb Appeal: The Block, he offers invaluable design and technical advice for any home or landscape improvement needs.

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Category 5 Preparedness Fri, 01 Jun 2012 19:56:58 +0000 Hurricane season is just upon us and if the past few years have taught us anything, it’s that hurricanes can cause serious damage if you are not prepared for them. The best way to prevent serious damage to your home or loss of life or danger to your family is to take the necessary precautions to ensure the safest, securest environment possible prior to a hurricane’s arrival.

Checklist and Family Plan

The American Red Cross posted a checklist of things to do and collect in preparation for a hurricane. Among the items listed is a reminder to take care of all things loose: doors, windows, shutters, and items on the lawn (like tools, bikes, toys, etc).

It is also important to stock up on things like canned goods, bottled water, and gasoline. The Red Cross also suggests turning the fridge and freezer to the highest settings to keep food cold longer in the event that the power goes out.

One of the most important ways your family can be prepared for an emergency such as a hurricane is to sit down and write up a plan or strategy for evacuation. Make sure each member of the family or house clearly understands the plan and practices acting it out. Locate the safest room in the house and keep a supply of new batteries and at least one flashlight in the room along with a battery powered radio.

Emergency Kit

Keeping an emergency kit stocked and located in an easy-to-reach location is one preparation that is often overlooked. Along with the basic first-aid components, you will want to include spare batteries, a multipurpose tool, hand sanitizer, extra house and car keys, bug spray, a map of the immediate area, disposable camera (in case of photographing damage), and a list of emergency contact numbers.

For stocking food and water, keep at least three days’ worth in a safe location. There should be a minimum of one gallon of water per person for each day and the food should be easy to prepare (minimal or no cooking needed) and non-perishable. Canned soups and stews are a great commodity and can be used for both lunch and dinner.


In the case of any impending emergency, always tune into the radio for updates and warnings on the status of an incoming storm or risk of any other natural disaster. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is the highest rated weather service in terms of accuracy and timely updates. They offer weather updates online, via podcasts, and on the radio at seven different frequencies via the NOAA Weather Radio (NWR).

When listening to weather updates and warnings, it’s important to note the difference between a “hurricane watch” and a “hurricane warning.” A watch means that conditions will be threatening within 48 hours. When you hear this update, begin your preparation plans immediately and stay tuned to the radio for more information regarding the storm.

A hurricane warning is issued when the conditions are expected within 36 hours. If evacuations are being called for in your area, this is the point in which you will want to leave. Otherwise, finish up your preparations and retreat to the safe zone in the house. Keep the radio with you to stay posted on further storm conditions.

Disaster Relief

Supposing you evacuate your house out of necessity and return to find the area ravaged by the storm, you will want to contact a hurricane relief center as soon as possible to report the damage. But first, check with your insurance company to see how much they cover. Since many insurance policies exclude flood damage, that might be something with which FEMA or another disaster relief group could assist. For a full list of relief groups, check out

If you have evacuated the area and intend to return, there are a couple things you should be aware of before you travel. For one thing, check the route back home for flooding or damage. Planning detours in advance can save a lot of drive time and gas. Pay close attention to bridges or low areas as these are the most common areas for flooding.

Power lines and trees are notoriously found on the road following severe storms so use caution and drive slower where visibility is limited. Upon returning to your house, check for leaking gas pipes and structural damage before entering. Take photos of any damage for insurance and relief purposes.

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Home Cleaning Products: Hazards and Homemade Alternatives Fri, 25 May 2012 18:19:49 +0000 The average American doesn’t put much thought into what goes into household cleaners. While it’s not surprising that cleaners contain chemicals, the true health and environmental costs associated with chemical cleaners are often ignored.

Toxins in Households Cleaners

Everyone knows that household cleaners contain chemicals, but most people are not aware how toxic these chemicals can be to humans and animals. Yahoo points out the alarming fact that many of these toxins have a pronounced carcinogenic effect. Carcinogens are substances that have been directly linked to an increased instance of cancer.

Not only do household cleaners pose risks when people are exposed to them in the manner that they were intended to be used, but millions of children are poisoned every year due to accidental ingestion of cleaners. The use of household cleaners has been linked to an increase in dangerous indoor air pollution. People may not be aware that indoor air pollution can pose significant risks in the same way that outdoor pollution can. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that over 11,000 people die every year as a result of indoor air pollution.

The Environmental Impact of Household Cleaners

National Geographic states that household cleaners contain chemicals that can be harmful to the environment such as ammonia, nitrogen and phosphorus. Phosphorus is the main ingredient in dishwasher detergent and enters the waterways after being drained from a dishwasher. This chemical builds up in the water system over time and is difficult to filter during the water treatment process. High concentrations of phosphorus have been linked to an accelerated growth of algae that has been known to kill fish and disturb the ecosystem in affected areas.

Fumes from household cleaners contribute to air pollution both indoors and outdoors. People may be surprised that one of the contributing factors of smog is the use of chemical household cleaners.

Occupational Health Hazards Related to Cleaners

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) acknowledges that workers in the cleaning industry are regularly exposed to high concentrations of harmful chemicals. One way to cut down on the risk of health hazards associated with this exposure is by following all OSHA standards that are in place regarding the use of chemical cleaners.

Employees in the cleaning industry may also consider talking to employers about the possibility of using natural cleaning methods.

The Finances of Household Cleaners

The costs of household cleaners are not only related to health and the environment. CBS Pittsburgh reports that Americans spend nearly $10 billion on household cleaning products every year. Households can improve health, help the environment and save money by taking the effort to make cleaning products at home.

Safe Alternatives to Household Cleaners

The Lehigh County, Pennsylvania website provides a comprehensive list of recipes for safe homemade cleaners. Some highlights from the list are summarized below.

  • A small amount of vinegar placed in a saucer can effectively eliminate foul odors in a room.
  • Baking soda is commonly used to absorb odors in enclosed areas such as a refrigerator, cabinet, trash can or litter box.
  • Thyme leaves that have been steeped in boiling water make a chemical-free disinfectant.
  • A mixture containing equal parts water and vinegar can be used in place of a window cleaner.
  • Clogged drains can be opened by pouring a quarter of a cup of salt down the drain and following the salt up with a pot of boiling water.
  • Bathroom mildew, lime deposits and tub rings can all be cleaned by rubbing a sponge soaked in vinegar over the affected areas. Follow the vinegar with a scrubbing of baking soda.
  • Wood floors can be polished with a mixture containing equal parts vinegar and vegetable oil.
  • Tile floors can be cleaned with a mixture containing equal parts vinegar and water.

Safe Methods for Spot Cleaning

Spot cleaning should be addressed separately because effectively removing spots can rely heavily on the type of stain that is being removed. Most substances that stain furniture or carpets can be removed through the use of common household products without adding toxic chemicals to the mix. The list below sourced from the information found at Top Green Cleaning provides spot cleaning tips for specific stain types.

  • Soak up as much of a liquid stain as possible before starting to spot clean.
  • Use club soda or salt to remove a wine stain. Salt is able to absorb the stain. If using salt as a spot cleaning method, make sure that the stain is completely covered.
  • Use a paste made of baking soda and water to remove grease stains. The mixture should be rubbed on the area that is stained and allowed to sit for a minimum of 15 minutes.
  • Use a mixture of water, vinegar and liquid soap to take care of any type of stain that is found on a carpeted area. The exact mixture should consist of one quart of water with three tablespoons of vinegar and two tablespoons of liquid soap mixed in. Take care not to soak the carpet with the mixture during the cleaning process.
  • Stained clothing can be pretreated with a mixture that is equal parts baking soda and vinegar.
  • Hydrogen peroxide is a safe way to treat scorch stains on clothing and blood stains on any surface. Apply the peroxide with some water and allow the mixture to work overnight.
  • Rust stains can be treated with a soaking of vinegar followed by a salt scrub. If the item that is stained is a clothing item, allow the clothing to dry fully after this spot cleaning process before putting the item into a washing machine.

Consumers can protect their families and pets by using natural and homemade household cleaners in place of harsh, dangerous chemical cleaners. Use the tips listed above to create a safe and clean environment at home.

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8 Essential Home Inspection Tips for Home Buyers Fri, 18 May 2012 20:26:03 +0000 The home inspection is one of the most important steps before buying a home. For home buyers, it may be grounds for negotiating price offers, renovations, or necessary fixes. As a fairly comprehensive diagnostic test on the condition of your future home, it is designed to educate both buyers and sellers about deficiencies and problems that should be taken care of to prevent long-term damage. Some issues require immediate attention, and others may be grounds for negotiating fixes prior to moving in. Here are some essential tips on what to pay particular attention to when getting a home inspection.

  1. Attend the inspection

    It is to your advantage to attend the home inspection for your potential new home. Professional inspectors always encourage clients to go to their inspection and accompany them throughout the process in order to see first-hand what is going on. Inspectors will point out problem-areas and arm you with valuable, detailed information regarding the home you may be purchasing. Not being present during an inspection may make it harder to understand the home inspection report, which puts you at a disadvantage when negotiating terms with the seller.

  2. Look for foundation movement

    A common and major problem found in home inspections are signs of foundational movement. Grade sloping or erosion may contribute to cracks in the foundation, which could lead to expensive problems in the future. The inspector will look out for these signs, but it doesn’t hurt to be also be on the lookout for misaligned windows and doors, hairline cracks on the walls or foundation, and uneven gaps on the floor. Don’t hesitate to move furniture and rugs to get a closer look.

  3. Check all electrical systems

    Older homes are notorious for ill-equipped electrical systems. For example, bathrooms may not be wired sufficiently for modern gadgets and are prone to overheating. Be sure all electrical outlets have enough load to support TVs, computers, and other large electrical items. The heating and cooling system also must be top shape; if the system is outdated, consider replacements for an energy efficient model. Also, be on the watch for any exposed wires, which should be corrected by a licensed electrician.

  4. Expect the worst, but assess deal-breakers

    Before an inspection, you should make a mental note of certain deal-breakers the inspection may find. Major fixes can be potentially a major financial blow, so research major red flags and assess your willingness to deal with these issues. Things like mold, termites, cracked foundations, and wiring issues can be quite problematic and hazardous to your health. Knowing what you’re willing to fix and not fix will help you make a more educated decision when faced with inspection results.

  5. Inspect the inspector

    Not all states require home inspectors to be licensed or adhere to a certain standard. There is also no comprehensive background or certification that fully trains an individual for all the conditions that may exist in a home. Even in areas where licensing exists, some programs fall short. It is your responsibility to make sure the home inspector is formally trained or certified to perform a thorough home inspection. This may be done by confirming that the inspector is backed by the National Institute of Building Inspectors (NIBI) or other formal organizations like the National Association of Certified Home Inspectors (NACHI), which insures their knowledge of inspection and the home buying process. It also helps to ask for a reference from your realtor or other people you know.

  6. Insist on detailed descriptions in the inspection report

    The inspection report should provide comprehensive and detailed descriptions for each item inspected. Words like “good,” “fair,” or “poor” without an accompanying explanation can be interpreted in many ways. If your inspection report is filled with vague words and no succinct description or recommendation for repairs, ask the inspector to elaborate with a more descriptive report. Take time to make sure you understand the conditions of each item and ask questions.

  7. Make sure utilities are on in vacant homes

    Prior to your inspection appointment, make sure with the seller that utilities will be turned on to avoid rescheduling another inspection. While vacant properties may be easier to inspect (visually) than an occupied one, there are some major disadvantages. If homes have been vacant for a long time, it may have caused accelerated deterioration of mechanical systems due to bearing and seal damage. There also may be some loopholes in the inspection like undetected leaks and water stains that are not visible due to lack of normal water usage.

  8. Compare home inspection checklists

    All home inspections can be drastically different and vary from state to state, as well as from accredited associations, counties, and cities. Compare the guidelines of reputable organizations and see which checklist suits your potential home best. There are some inspections that do not include asbestos, radon, rodents, lead, or mold, so be aware of what your inspection includes before hiring an inspector.

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Top Ten Spots for Roof Leaks Thu, 17 May 2012 14:52:36 +0000 Roof leaks are among homeowners’ biggest fears. Every now and then, they can be signs that a roof needs to be completely replaced, and no one wants to deal with such a major expense. Not surprisingly, most leaks are initially discovered during powerful rain storms. However, if water has built up beneath the shingles over time, they can occur at seemingly random times too. Ice and snow can also alert homeowners to roof leaks. One thing’s for sure: You shouldn’t ignore the problem. As soon as evidence of a leak occurs, you need to track down its source. It’s more than likely coming from one of the following ten places.

  1. Chimney

    The chimney is a common spot for roof leaks to originate. Four different types of flashing can be used to seal water out of the chimney, so there are many possible causes. Even the tiniest of cracks in the flashing can cause water to pool up and cause leaks. At the soldered corners of the flashing, cracks are often found too. Caulk should never be used in this case. The damaged flashing or counter-flashing should be replaced instead.

  2. Gutter

    Clogged or damaged gutters are often to blame for roof leaks, which is why it’s so important to keep your gutters in good shape. Clean them out regularly, or hire someone to do it for you. The goal is to keep water flowing off the roof as quickly as possible.

  3. Ice Dams

    If you live in an area that gets a lot of snow, your roof’s ice dams can block melting water from moving down and away from it. In turn, water can build up beneath the shingles and under the flashings. If this continually happens, you’ll need to have membranes installed beneath the roof.

  4. Wall Step Flashings

    Step flashing is used where slanting areas of the roof meet with vertical walls. At each new row of shingles, another piece of flashing is used where the roof meets the wall. When it’s in good shape and properly installed, each piece of flashing should extend partially onto the wall, and the other end of it should be partially covered by a shingle. Rust and holes commonly occur on these flashings, or they may become loose. If holes or rust have developed, the flashing should be replaced. If the flashing is simply loose, it should be secured again with fresh caulk.

  5. Head Wall Flashings

    This type of flashing is used where roofs end directly at vertical walls. In these areas, each piece of flashing should extend at least three inches over the shingle. Caulking won’t work if there are cracks or gaps. Roof cement and tar won’t either. The flashing should be secured firmly again if it is loose, or it should be replaced if it is damaged.

  6. Furnace Flashings

    These flashings are used to seal the areas around furnace vents, which extend out of the roof. They consist of aluminum flashing, a rubber seal and a metal storm collar. A loose storm collar can cause leaks. If yours is loose, tighten it. The vent itself may be damaged and should be replaced. Cracked rubber seals can also be the source of the problem. Each component should be carefully examined.

  7. Plumbing Vent Flashings

    These flashings seal plumbing vents that extend out of the roof. They’re nearly identical to furnace flashings. The main difference if they don’t have metal storm collars. Look for cracked rubber seals and loose or damaged flashing.

  8. Valleys

    Roof valleys are easy to identify; they are where to planes of a roof meet to form a valley. These can be sealed in several different ways. If metal flashing is used, check to make sure that it’s securely fastened and doesn’t have any rust or holes. If rolled roofing is used, check for corrosion and make sure it isn’t loose. Sometimes, shingles are simply laced together at the valley. In this case, the best solution is to install a metal flashing. There’s no way to use caulk or cement to patch holes reliably.

  9. Shingle Fields

    It’s exceedingly rare for roof leaks to occur on the broad expanses that are known as shingle fields. When they do happen, it’s usually due to small holes and loose shingles. In the case of small holes, don’t simply patch them with caulk. Slip a piece of flashing beneath the shingle first. Once that’s done, go ahead and patch the small holes with caulk. As for loose shingles, simply secure them into place. It doesn’t hurt to check the roof for loose nails from time to time as a preventive measure too.

  10. Other Spots

    This last item isn’t about a specific spot on the roof. Instead, it deals with other problems that can make you think your roof is leaking even though it actually isn’t. For example, condensation in the attic can leak through. This happens during hot, exceptionally humid weather. The crown of your chimney may develop cracks and begin to crumble. It’s easy to assume the crumbling is occurring because of a leak, but it actually isn’t. Finally, wind-blown rain, which happens during fierce storms, is sometimes an issue. The best way to deal with it is by using ice dam membranes and tar paper.

As you can see, the majority of roof leaks occur in places where intersections are located. Whether it’s at the valley of a roof, alongside its chimney or near one of the vents that poke out of it, a leak isn’t necessarily a sign that your roof needs to be replaced. Working on the roof is dangerous, however, so it’s generally best to let professionals do this work for you. You’ll generally enjoy a warranty of some kind too, which allows you to get a little peace of mind. It’s smart to have them come out to look at your roof on occasion too. Preventative maintenance is the best way to keep roof leaks at bay.

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How the Housing Market Affects Your Retirement Plans Tue, 15 May 2012 19:24:46 +0000 Seniors looking to retire now are facing financial difficulties due to the state of the housing market in America. When the Baby Boomers purchased their houses early on, they bought during a time when the market was in its optimal state. Now, they owe up to hundreds of thousands on a mortgage they will be paying off for the rest of their lives. This puts their retirement funds at stake as well as adding a burden to a time of their life when they should be relaxing and enjoying life.

The Current Problem

Retirees with expensive homes are saddled with long-term mortgages that will have to be paid off by them or their children. mentions Charlotte Morse, age 62, who bought a two-bedroom house in California for about $450,000 in 2005. But the value plummeted by 42%, the estimated worth of the house sunk to about $260,000. However, Charlotte still owes $333,206 on the mortgage. Although she and her husband would like to move to North Carolina for retirement, they both know that dream will never come to fruition as they can’t pay off their mortgage in time, even if they were able to sell the house (which is even more unlikely). Charlotte is not the only unfortunate homeowner in this dilemma.

According to Alicia Munnell, director of the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, 30% of the baby boomers aged 50-62 borrowed against the value of their homes between 2001 and 2004. This accounts for the significant decreases in net worth – as much as 35%. The game switches from exciting retirement plans to “which lives longer, the homeowner or the mortgage?” In this case, many of the boomers will not outlive their mortgages. Because of the hefty house payments, 23% of interviewed baby boomers said they planned to work until they are 70 or older and a depressing 12% did not expect to retire at all.

The only positive aspect of the current housing market situation is that those who manage to sell their homes have much cheaper options for retirement housing in states ravaged by the market decline. The hope however, is that the market would recover long enough for the retirees to get out from under their weighty mortgages and find cheaper residency.

Retirement Solutions

For some elderly homeowners, shared-appreciation is becoming a popular option. Shared-appreciation is an arrangement that involves an exchange of future home value in return for fast cash. Usually the cash represents 10% to 15% of the property’s current value, which gives the seniors some protection against the market relative to the value of their home.

Still others have resigned themselves to working an additional 10-20 years after their expected retirement date. Not only does the income help with pricey monthly payments, but it usually provides the opportunity for refinancing mortgages. Furthermore, delaying the inevitable collection of Social Security means higher payouts later on. Although these options certainly put retirement plans on hold or delay them for a while longer, it can mean the difference in never retiring at all or being stuck in an oppressive situation for years.

Additional Factors

In addition to the difficulties associated with high mortgage rates and decreased home value, seniors face more specific troubles when choosing alternative locations for living out the remainder of their days. The elderly folks can’t just settle down anywhere; many of them will be unable to drive in the near future and will need public transportation or living quarters close to local amenities. Those dependent on Medicaid or Medicare will also have to consider where they can get health care without having to travel long distances. Although many of these seniors envisioned living near their children and grandchildren, sacrifices will have to be made.

The best hope the retirees have is that the market will recover in the next 5-10 years. Although there is no guarantee that the market will indeed recover, or that this change will be nation-wide, the NASDAQ has reported a positive verdict for the month of May indicating that the index has jumped to 29. Considering economists predicting it to reach about 25 or 26, this is an encouraging report. This first step in recovery is partly brought on by the demand for rental properties, young people, and immigrants.

Renting relieves the oversupply of homes currently for sale and this demand provides a strategy option for retiring homeowners who want to get ahead of the game. By renting out their properties, it retains the value of the home over time while still covering mortgage payments. This would allow the seniors to find cheaper residency options, perhaps even renting themselves at a lower monthly cost, and reduce the risk of foreclosing on their homes or throwing out all hopes for retirement.

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Saving Money & Energy Fri, 04 May 2012 18:16:31 +0000 Waste accounts for a huge fraction of most residential electricity and water bills. In some cases, nearly 50 percent of all the electricity use in a residence can be accounted for by inefficient appliances, power-hogging standby modes, and other wasteful circumstances. Since electricity is expensive, conservation can lead directly to some pretty substantial savings. However, precious nonrenewable resources are also saved whenever you successfully cut back on energy usage. Unless your home runs exclusively on wind, solar, and hydroelectric power, wasting energy is the same as needlessly burning fossil fuels.

It’s vital to conserve water for many of the same reasons, and most homes waste just as much water as electricity. The bathroom is the biggest culprit, and about 75 percent of all residential water usage is accounted for by flushing the toilet and taking either showers or baths. Conserving water is especially important in rural areas because flushing excess water into a septic system can cause it to overflow. The same is true of municipal sewer systems, and excess sewage is sometimes dumped directly into rivers, lakes, and other bodies of water.

No-cost Ways to Save Energy

Some of the most effective energy-saving measures won’t cost you any money at all. In fact, you’ll actually save money when your next electricity bill arrives. One easy way to reduce your residential power consumption is to simply shut off the lights whenever you leave a room. Depending on factors like the number of lights you have and the local cost of electricity, shutting off unused lights might save you a few dollars each day.

Another easy way to save energy is to use your heating and cooling systems more efficiently. Replacing old windows can result in a huge savings, but simply covering inefficient windows with heavy drapes can help keep the heat in. If you have some mastic laying around, you can also reduce your heating and cooling costs by sealing up the joints of your heating ducts. Landscaping can also play a role in energy efficiency, and planting the right bushes and shrubs around your house will lead to a reduction in heating and cooling costs.

The biggest energy savings may come from shutting off appliances and electronics that have standby modes. When you shut off most modern electronics, they don’t actually turn all the way off. If a red light turns on when you shut an appliance down, it’s a pretty safe bet that it has entered into a standby mode. You may find more than 40 different appliances around your house that use some type of standby mode, and that can account for 10 percent of all the electricity used in your home. If you install power strips that allow you to cut off electricity to those items, you can avoid paying for all that wasted energy.

Low-cost Ways to Save Energy

If you make a small initial investment, it’s possible to decrease your energy bills even further. The cheapest way to reduce your energy usage is to switch from incandescent light bulbs to compact fluorescent bulbs. CFL bulbs cost more than regular incandescent bulbs, but they last about 10 times longer. That means you’ll reduce landfill waste in addition to saving money on energy.

You can also save both money and water by installing low-flow shower heads. These fixtures use about half the water that regular shower heads do, and that can dramatically reduce your water bill. If you like to take hot showers, less heated water also means lower electricity or gas bills. While you’re at it, you can also check to see if your water heater is properly insulated. It takes a great deal of energy to heat such a large volume of water, so improper insulation leads to energy inefficiency.

Another way to save a great deal of energy is to switch to energy star appliances. These appliances are typically around 30 percent more efficient than regular appliances, but the cost of upgrading can be daunting. Since energy star appliances will save you money in the long run, it’s a good idea to focus on buying them when your old units break. If you can’t afford to retrofit your entire household, just make sure that you don’t purchase any more inefficient units.

Installing an energy star compliant heater or air conditioning unit is a great way to save money, but it’s also important to make sure your heating and cooling system is properly maintained. If your heating or air conditioning filter gets clogged up, the efficiency of the system will drop. You can also use a lot of unnecessary energy if your house isn’t properly insulated. The biggest cause of heat loss is a poorly insulated attic, but you can also check the crawl space and the sill plates of your entry doors. If you can feel a draft at your sill plates, you’re wasting money every time you heat or cool your home.

Money-saving Checklist

If you want to eliminate your personal electricity waste, you can:

  • Weatherize and insulate your house.
  • Replace single-pane windows with double-pane windows.
  • Seal the joints in your heating ducts.
  • Maintain your heating and cooling systems.
  • Tailor your landscaping to reduce heating and cooling costs.
  • Consider a whole-house fan instead of central A/C.
  • Install a programmable setback thermostat.
  • Turn off the lights when you leave a room.
  • Use power strips to eliminate appliance standby modes.
  • Replace indoor lightbulbs with CFL bulbs.
  • Replace outdoor lighting with energy efficient LEDs.
  • Purchase energy star appliances.
  • Switch some appliances from electricity to natural gas.
  • Install faucet aerators and low-flow shower heads.
  • Wash clothes in cold water.

Adding It All Up

The specific amount you save will depend on the number of appliances you have, where you live, and how much electricity costs in your area, but every act of electricity conservation you engage in will result in a monthly savings on your electric bill. If you shut off appliances and electronics with power strips, that can save you 10 percent right off the top of your monthly bill. Switching over to energy star appliances can save you another 30 percent, and properly insulating your house might save you over $200 every year. A programmable setback thermostat can save you about $120 each year, and washing your clothes in cold water will net you about $50 in yearly savings. You will have to spend some money to see the highest level of savings, but there are often federal and local government incentive programs that can help defray the costs.

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40 Posts Discussing How to Recover After Being Victim of Natural Disaster Wed, 03 Nov 2010 11:26:36 +0000

The key to surviving a natural disaster is greatly dependent on preplanning before the disaster strikes.  What happens when you realize that you’ve just survived a natural disaster?  Recovery can often be as devastating as the disaster itself. Good homeowners insurance will help you take care of damage to your home, but there are still many other obstacles to deal with, especially the emotional trauma that can occur from dealing with a disaster of any type.

  1. Disaster Information Center (preparedness, recovery) –
    Being prepared for a disaster is the best way to minimize losses and recovery time.
  2. Tips on What to Do After Surviving a Natural Disaster
    Since September 11, 2001, much has changed in our world, nation, state and community. We have become much more aware of the devastation that can be caused by unexpected disasters—whether they are caused by nature, by accident or by terrorist attacks.
  3. Surviving A Natural Disaster
    Natural disasters can happen anywhere, and they often come out of the blue. But proactive preparedness and a clearheaded response will help mitigate the negative effects.
  4. How To Survive the Next Disaster
    When a large disaster (terrorist attack, earthquake, tornado, etc.) strikes, many of the necessities of life are suddenly gone – instantly gone.
  5. What to Do After a NATURAL DISASTER – Brief Article
    The following advice from the Institute of Certified Financial Planners, Denver, Colo., can help you minimize the financial impact of future disasters:
  6. Helping Children After a Natural Disaster: Information for Parents and Teachers
    Natural disasters can be especially traumatic for children and youth. Experiencing a dangerous or violent disaster is frightening even for adults, and the devastation to the familiar can be long lasting and distressing.
  7. How can I Help in a Natural Disaster?
    Many people want to offer help in a natural disaster, whether by donating money, transporting supplies, giving blood, or volunteering to go into affected areas and offer physical assistance. Unfortunately, there are times when well-meaning people get in the way more than they help in a natural disaster.
  8. Natural Disaster Preparations
    Emergencies and disasters can occur anytime, anywhere. Some are primarily seasonal and allow for certain preparations; others occur swiftly and without warning.
  9. Prevent Illness After a Disaster
    Fact Sheet from CDC Emergency Preparedness and Response
  10. How To Recover From A Natural Disaster
    Natural disaster is a great leveler. It spares nobody and that includes businesses, both small and big.
  11. Can Your Family Survive a Natural Disaster?
    No one thinks it will happen to them, but if it happens to you and your family, do you know how to survive?
  12. Diabetic Tips For Surviving a Natural Disaster
    When natural disasters hit, the threat of being cut off from society and therefore medical supplies is a frightening thought.
  13. Natural Disasters and Catastrophes
    Natural disasters cause widespread damage and create a large volume of insurance claims for damage to homes, businesses, cars and other property.
  14. In the Path of a Hurricane: Surviving Mother Nature’s Wrath
    Although it’s almost impossible to predict the damage from a natural disaster, planning helps counter the aftermath, experts say.
  15. LDS Emergency Preparedness: Natural Disasters
    You could use these links to make handouts for classes, find tips for a Emergency Preparedness corner of a Relief Society Newsletter, collect several for a ward preparedness binder, or print them out for your files.
  16. Survive and Thrive after a Natural Disaster
    Natural disasters, like so many things in life, are unpredictable — yet the grief that may result often follows a pattern, says Kristi Cooper, Iowa State University Extension family life field specialist.
  17. How to Survive Natural Disasters
    If there was a natural disaster in my home, would I know what to do? Would I have all of the necessary supplies to ride it out until help arrived?
  18. How To: Survive A Natural Disaster
    Natural disasters will occur on occasion, so I’m here to help you protect your home. True, sometimes you can’t predict or stop nature’s deadly course, but there are measures you can take to protect your home and yourself.
  19. How to Survive a Natural Disasater
    Surviving a natural disaster involves more than just getting through the event. The most important thing is to be prepared to survive the aftermath of the catastrophe.
  20. How to Survive Natural Disasters
    I have compiled some basic information on what to do when severe weather or forces of nature are heading your way. Check it out.
  21. How to Survive Natural Disasters, Hurricanes, Earthquakes, Floods and Etc
    There’s hardly a home in the world that truly safe from some type of disaster. But good news, commonsense precautions go a long way in avoiding loss of property and life. I really hope that this article will help us get prepared!
  22. After a Natural Disaster: Coping with Loss
    Understanding the stages of grief, giving into them, and going through them, is key to getting past the disaster and into a fulfilling future.
  23. Extra Emergency Survival Kit Necessities
    How to survive a natural disaster with a camping vacation mindset.  Anyone who has ever been evacuated from, or isolated in, the family home because of a natural disaster, can attest to just how difficult it can be. But there are ways to alleviate some of the troubling aspects of the experience.
  24. Natural Disaster Survival Guide & After Disaster Tips
    It is essential that you get back on your feet and up and running as quickly as possible, so you can get money flowing into your small business.
  25. How to Recover From a Natural Disaster
    The winds have died down, the rain or snow has ended and the earth has stopped shaking. You look around at the mess around you and you think: now what?
  26. How do I Recover Communications After a Natural Disaster?
    Natural disasters can rob businesses of productivity and profits, if not prepared for in advance.
  27. Important Guidelines to Recover from a Natural Disaster
    Going through a natural disaster is an experience that no one should face. Unfortunately, Mother Nature has her own plans and all we can do is learn how to recuperate from a catastrophic event like this.
  28. After disaster strikes, how businesses recover.
    The unimaginable has occurred. Your business has been destroyed or heavily damaged. The disaster could be natural or technological: fire, flood, hurricane, tornado, a power outage, e-mail virus, equipment failure or data loss.
  29. How To Survive a Natural Disaster
    To protect ourselves from natural disaster, we should be equipped with adequate information regarding safety tips, precaution tips, methods to combat, emergency kits to survive, tips to protect your self and your family members, etc.
  30. Life and Credit – Recovering from Natural Disasters
    No matter how well you plan and manage your finances, a natural disaster can take you off track at a moment’s notice.
  31. Surviving Natural Disasters
    Survival in an outdoor environment will be precarious and a test of your resilience and character at the best of times.
  32. 49 Articles About Weather Proofing Your Home Against Disaster
    Weatherizing a home is an important step in attempting to prevent damage done by a natural disaster.
  33. EPA: Natural Events and Disasters
    Every year natural disasters, such as hurricanes, floods, fires, earthquakes, and tornadoes, challenge agricultural production.
  34. Recovery Tips For Hurricane-Battered Homeowners
    If you were in the path of a hurricane, the damage that the winds and water left behind can seem impossible to fix. Getting back to normal will take some time and effort, but there are plenty of people around to help.
  35. How to Survive a Famine
    Severe Weather, Natural Disaster, and Nuclear Attack can Bring on Mass Starvation – Be Prepared
    Welcome to the Common Sense Survival Guides home page. This site is created by Albert Sindlinger. We are a site that makes survival and preparedness information available to the people.
  37. Family Home Security: Natural Disasters
    How to Make a Disaster Recovery Plan With Your Family. When an emergency occurs, it’s natural to feel scared, disoriented and panicked.
  38. American Red Cross Preparedness Fast Facts
    Get the facts you need — before, during, and after a disaster or emergency situation. As the nation’s preeminent preparedness and safety training organization, the American Red Cross developed the following emergency-specific checklists using the latest research, science, best practices and expert opinion.
  39. Surviving a Natural Disaster
    When natural disasters happen (or acts of God), they usually happen when we expect them the least.
  40. The Survivors Club Guide to Financially Surviving a Natural Disaster
    Learn How to Financially Prepare for a Natural Disaster with These Tips from The Survivors Club.

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Top 50 Landscaping Sites for Help and Inspiration Fri, 16 Apr 2010 15:02:15 +0000

Landscaping your property is the absolute best way to improve the “curb appeal” of your home. Whether you’re looking to improve the property value, or you just want to make your lawn & gardens look nice, it sure isn’t easy. It’s tough enough coming up with inspiration for the look you desire that will work with the challenges of the land you’re working with. What makes it more difficult is the up-keep and knowledge that must go along with it. We’ve compiled a list of our top 50 favorite sites to help you with inspiration and information for making your property the talk of the neighborhood:

Professional Landscaping

1.      Green Bay Nursery: Landscaping and gardens

2.      Backyard Oasis: Designer landscape and swimming pool creations.

3.      Partridge Design: Fine landscaping design since 1977.

4.      Clearwater Summit Group, Inc.: Residential landscaping services – Commercial, Residential, Renovations, Other Landscaping Projects.

5.      Hanselman Landscaping: Garden Design and Installation, Japanese Gardens, Garden Care, and Specialty Trees.

6.      Garden Designer: Landscape and garden design and ideas.

7.      Landscaping Blog | Landscape Design: Landscaping and garden design ideas.

8.      Landscape – Urbanism: Focus is on landscaping and vegetated architecture, urbanism, green roofs, living walls, and ecological planning.

9.      Terra Nova Ecological Landscaping Blog: Santa Cruz backyard landscaping designs.

10.  Elizabeth Carmel’s Landscape Photography Blog: Fine Art Landscape Photography.

11.  House Landscaping Ideas: Ideas for house, front yard, and backyard landscaping and free landscaping software.

12.  Unique Landscaping: Specializes in luxury pools and landscaping designs.

13.  Matt Anders Landscaping Blog: Landscaping guide, Austin, TX.

14.  O’ Connell Landscape: Design and build landscape contractor.

15.  Studio G: Landscaping design products, inspirations, ideas, and destinations journal.

16.  Exterior Worlds: Home and garden landscaping.

17.  Tree Hugger: Green resources.

18.  Land+Living Network: A modern world’s lifestyle and design.

19.  Free Soil: International collection and collaboration of everything landscape and environment.

20.  Plant NJ: Swimming pools and landscaping design and construction.

21.  Our Gardner: Horticulturists working as residential estate gardeners.

22.  Glorious-Landscape: Landscape fine art photography.

23.  Garden Visit: Find gardens, garden tours from around the world, and trip planner.

24.  Great-Landscape-Photography: Great landscape photography guide.

25.  Copy Landscape Blog: Texas landscaping design horticulturist.

26.  Solid Ground: Specializes in high-end commercial and residential landscaping.

27.  Garden Minnesota: Expert outdoor living landscapers.

28.  Digital Landscaping: Landscaping design, land art and training.

29.  All States Landscaping: Transforming Utah’s landscape since 1985.

30.  HLI: Houston Landscape Images uses your vision to design your landscape.

31.  Fine Gardening: Plant guide, design ideas, how to’s, videos, discussion and gallery.

32.  CalFinders: Connecting homeowners with contractors nationwide.

33.  Sounds Green: Landscaping lifestyles blog.

34.  Nations Harvest: Lawn Care Fundraiser.

35.  Green Landscaping: Sustainable green landscaping.

36.  Go Green Tool Shed: Ecological landscaping and going green.

37.  The Greenview Spring: All things green and garden resource.

38.  Lawn Care Landscape: Affordable, Eco-friendly professional lawn care for Ohio residents.

39.  The Lawn Blog: Fun, current information for the lawn and “green” industry.

DIY Landscaping

40.  CURBappeal: Living luxuriously on a limited budget.

41.  Backyard Landscape Ideas: Tips, Ideas, Resources, and How To’s.

42.  Go Green! Blog: Landscape supply helping people beautify the planet and their yards.

43.  Green Industry Pros: Tips, lawn equipment sales and repair.

44.  Farmington Gardens: Front yard and backyard gardening for beginners – vegetables and fruit trees.

45.  Front Porch Ideas and More: Porch and yard curb appeal landscaping.

46.  Savvy Landscaping: Tips, ideas, and tricks for adding curb appeal to your landscape.

47.  Black Forrest Co.: Beginner to expert designs specialized for the DIY landscapers.

48.  Danny Lipford: Home improvement advice.

49.  Great-Backyard-Landscaping-Ideas: Ideas, tips, landscaping information, and news letter.

50.  Landscaping Videos: Landscaping videos, plans, and pictures.

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Getting the Most from your Homeowners Policy Thu, 21 Jan 2010 17:01:03 +0000 juicingUnless you’ve got some sort of severe, twisted mental disorder, you don’t probably sit around thinking about homeowners insurance. OK, well, maybe you do  if you’re an insurance agent, but most of us aren’t. You get up every day, kiss your spouse goodbye and drop your kids off at school. The last thing on your mind, frankly, is your homeowners insurance policy.

Still, If you haven’t put any thought into your homeowners insurance policy, the fact of the matter is you might just be paying too much.

Here are some ways to cut costs on your homeowners policy and get the most from it at the same time:

  • Raise your deductible. If you have a $1,000 deductible, you’re going to see significant savings on your monthly insurance premium. Understand, of course, that you’re also going to have  a higher out-of-pocket cost if something does happen. Still, it’s a calculated risk that’s often worth it.
  • Look for safety deductions. Depending on your insurance company, you might be able to add fire extinguishers, smoke alarms or security systems and reduce your insurance costs. How far you live from a fire station or from a fire hydrant can even be a factor in your homeowners insurance premiums.
  • Bundle it. Most insurance companies will offer significant discounts if you have multiple policies. Things like car insurance and life insurance factor in here, so make sure you know what kind of benefit you could get from your insurance company by combining coverage.
  • Keep up on maintenance. You may not know this, but some companies will actually cancel your homeowners insurance or fail to renew the policy if your property isn’t properly maintained.
  • Disaster-proof your home. Some insurance companies will give a discount if you do things to make your home more resistant to natural disasters. You might be able to add stronger roofing, update your electrical systems or make some changes to your plumbing and save on your premiums.
  • Use electronic payments. Some companies now actually charge a fee if you send them a check. Save money by having your premiums automatically take out of a checking account or credit card.

Photo via LizMarie

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