The Low Down On Heating And Cooling Your HomeIf the temperature in your home is too hot at night, then you can’t sleep. If it’s too cold during the day, then you have to wear excessive layers.

Everyone has his or her own idea of the ideal temperature, but to keep it on that perfect number can get expensive. So, below we’ve outlined five ways you can take care of your heating and cooling system and help it run more efficiently.

1. Set It And Forget It

To maximize the effectiveness of your heating and cooling systems, you need to program your thermostat and refrain from changing it. Adjusting the thermostat makes your system work harder.

The best way to avoid tempting temperature changes is to choose a thermostat that fits your schedule, such as one with 7-day, 5-1-1, 5-2 or 1-week programming options.

2. Clean The Air Ducts

Even though your air filter catches most dust, over time debris can build up. The accumulation of dirt can restrict airflow throughout your ducts and even start blowing particles out of your registers.

Check inside the ducts and if there is any mold, dead insects, rodent feces or a thick layer of dust, then consider hiring a professional to do a deep cleaning.

3. Put Your Ceiling Fans To Work

Ceiling fans can help with heating and cooling by distributing the flow of air throughout your home. Most fans are reversible, which means they can push air down in summer to create a nice breeze and pull air up in winter to aid in circulating the heat. To change the direction of the fan’s rotation, look for a switch on its base.

4. Replace Your Air Filter

It’s standard to change your air filter every 90 days. However, you should take a peek at it every month. If it looks grimy and clogged, then go ahead and change it.

Also, consider investing in high-efficiency pleated filters. They have an electrostatic charge that grabs onto even the smallest dirt specks.

5. Consider Booster Fans

If one room in your house is always warmer or colder than the rest of your home, it might not be your HVAC system. It could be the ductwork. The twists and turns of air ducts, especially in older homes, can reduce airflow.

Booster fans are easy to install and do exactly what their name implies. They boost the flow of air to the part of your home in need of more heating or cooling. 

Get The Most Out Of Your PlumbingEveryone wants their pipes to last as long as possible, but there are a couple of simple problems that might be sucking the life out of your plumbing. Long-term stress is the enemy when it comes to your water system.

The three most common enemies are high water pressure, mineral-laden hard water, and grease. Avoid these three mistakes, and your water system will last years longer.

Take The Pressure Off Your Pipes

You might enjoy high water pressure when you’re taking a shower, but your pipes aren’t enjoying it at all. Over time, this high pressure stresses your plumbing system and can lead to leaks.

Is your high-pressure shower worth an expensive plumbing leak? To test your water pressure, you’ll have to hire a professional. Proper pressure should be somewhere between forty and eighty pounds per square inch.

To have a plumber reduce your water pressure should cost no more than about three or four hundred dollars. That sounds expensive, but it’s a lot cheaper than a leak.

Soft Water Is Good Water

If your water has a lot of minerals dissolved it, then it’s known as hard water. If you don’t already have a water softener you should consider it, because over time, those minerals will build up in your plumbing.

Eventually this will lead to a leak, so nip the problem in the bud, and look into getting a water softener. A good water softener should cost around five hundred dollars.

Hard water also makes soaps and detergents less effective. Soft water will get your clothes, your dishes, and even your hair cleaner.

Cease The Grease

Don’t ever pour cooking grease down the drain. It might be liquid when you pour it, but after a while, it will cool and solidify in your pipes. This won’t break the plumbing and cause a leak, but it will clog it all up.

The water that goes down afterward won’t do anything to wash away the sticky grease. You don’t want your pipes backing up, trust me. That is one messy problem.

Instead pour your grease into containers and throw it away in the garbage. Even better, go ahead and save it in the pantry and cook with it later.

Indoor plumbing is one of the most convenient technologies we have. So don’t take it for granted. Take care of your plumbing, and get the most out of it.

Avoid excessive water pressure, get a water softener, and don’t pour any grease down the drain. A little care now will go a long way. No one wants to deal with a plumbing leak. They’re expensive and a huge hassle.

Dine In Style, Kitchen Design Dos And Don’ts For 2014The kitchen is one of the most important rooms of your home. It is where you prepare all of your meals and it is often a hub of family activity. When you host a party, the action often ends up in the kitchen.

Where drinks and snacks are enjoyed into the early hours of the morning. It’s crucial that your kitchen functions well because you will use it every day, but you also want to make it beautiful and stylish.

Renovating and decorating your kitchen can also be one of the best ways to increase the resale value of your home. If you are planning on a kitchen makeover:

Here Are Some Dos And Don’ts To Keep In Mind:

  • Don’t forget to consider the proportions of everyone who will use the kitchen. Don’t choose kitchen stools that are too high for your kids to sit on, or cabinets that your wife cannot reach.
  • Think carefully about storage space. What do you need to store and how much room do you need? You might want to store away your blender and toaster and other small appliances as well, so that they don’t have to clutter up the counter all the time.
  • One of the hottest trends of 2014 is a simple and elegant white and cream kitchen. A neutral color like this can be accented with vibrant splashes of color, such as a bright fruit bowl or a wall hanging. If you are selling your home, a neutral tone will appeal more to the majority of buyers.
  • Another popular trend is green and environmentally sustainable elements within the kitchen. Recycled, renewable and energy-efficient products are in abundance at the moment and these options will not only save you money, they will be much better for the environment.
  • Instead of placing your microwave on the counter, it makes a lot more sense to fit it in seamlessly with your cabinets. This will allow you to free up counter space in your kitchen.
  • Be careful not to over design – it’s a common decorating mistake. Keep things simple and know when to stop, so that you don’t have a kitchen that looks overwhelming and cluttered.

These are just a few tips to keep in mind if you are giving the kitchen of your home a makeover for 2014. For more helpful tips and information, contact your trusted mortgage professional.

Top 10 Indoor Houseplants For Your Air QualityHouseplants are great for decorating. They can brighten up any room. Plus, houseplants can increase the air quality in a room. That makes you happier, healthier and reduces stress.

Speaking of stress, these plants won’t create any at all. All of the plants on this list are great at producing oxygen and require very little care.

10. Heartleaf Philodendron

A tough plant that’s a good filter for toxins like formaldehyde, Heartleaf Philodendron makes a great houseplant. The only downside is that it’s toxic to eat, so it may not be the best choice for those with kids or pets. But if you can control your appetite, the Heartleaf Philodendron is an excellent indoor houseplant for air quality.

9. Snake Plant

Also called Mother-in-Law’s Tongue, the Snake plant thrives in the bathroom. It loves the steamy conditions and can do without much light. It’s a great air filter as well.

8. Bamboo Palm

It thrives indoors and requires little maintenance. The Bamboo Palm even produces flowers and berries.

7. Red-edged Dracaena

Another great air filter, the Red-edged Dracaena is interesting because of its size. It can grow all the way to the ceiling. This beast of an oxygen-producing plant makes a great addition to the living room.

6. Chinese Evergreen

This is one of the prettier options. With interesting leaf colorings as well as berries and blooms, the Chinese Evergreen will contribute to your décor as well as your air quality.

5. Peace Lily

The Peace Lily only needs water about once a week. This is a great houseplant for air quality, and it’s easy to care for.

4. Devil’s Ivy

This air purifier looks great in a basket. Try hanging it in the garage.

3. English Ivy

English Ivy is an excellent filter plant. It’s been shown to filter out formaldehyde, which can be found in some cleaning products, and it even filters fecal matter particles (I bet you didn’t even know there were any of those in your house). English Ivy is an invasive species though. It’s fine to keep inside as a houseplant, just make sure it doesn’t end up in the yard.

2. Weeping fig

A type of Ficus, this is a great houseplant for air quality. It’s a bit bigger than the others though. It would fit best in the living room.

1. Spider Plant

The Spider plant is nearly impossible to kill. Even if you’ve been a plant murderer in the past, try this one. It will do wonders for your air quality, and I promise you won’t kill it.

Houseplants have been shown to reduce stress in the home. Combine that with higher air quality and your quality of life can be greatly improved with the help of a new green friend.

Even if you don’t have a green thumb, you can take care of these. These are great houseplants for air quality.

The Simplest Ways To Lower Your Home Heating Bill This WinterWhen the holiday season starts and the winter chill comes around, the heating bill at your property will naturally increase as you keep yourself warm and cosy. However, if your home is not being heated efficiently, you are essentially letting your hard earned dollars escape into the air as wasted energy.

What are some simple and inexpensive ways that you can cut down your heating expenses this winter and save yourself some money?

Only Heat The Rooms You Are Using

If you work from home and are spending eight hours of the day sitting in your home office, there is no need to keep the rest of the house toasty warm. If you have heaters that you can turn on and off for each room, you can direct the heat to the room that you are using.

0If you have a spare bedroom, you don’t even have to heat it at all unless a guest is coming to stay over.

Change The Air Filter On Your Furnace

If the air filter on your furnace is getting old and clogged up, it will block the airflow from the furnace itself which is a huge waste of energy. This will mean that your furnace works less effectively and it will also reduce its lifespan. It will only cost you $20 to change the air filter, but this little fix will make a big difference in the long run.

Turn On Your Ceiling Fan

You might think that turning on your ceiling fans in order to save money on heating makes no sense, but hear me out on this one. When you turn on your fans in reverse, they will actually draw the warm air throughout the house – helping to circulate it and keep it warmer.

Dress Warm At Home

If you live in a cold climate and you can walk around in your house in a t-shirt and shorts comfortably, you’re wasting money! If you wear warm clothing indoors during the winter, you will be able to keep your thermostat several degrees cooler and you will save yourself a lot of money over the winter.

These are just a few simple ways that you can reduce the heating costs for your property this winter. For more helpful tips and advice, feel free to contact your trusted mortgage professional.

Build A Home Gym For Your New Year's ResolutionWhile many people claim every January that they are going to exercise more, a lot of them give up after the first couple of months. It takes a great deal of effort to make it to the gym before work or have the energy to go afterward.

So don’t make a New Year’s resolution you know you won’t keep. Set yourself up for success by bringing the workout to you. Build your own home gym.

Designate A Space

The ideal situation would be to dedicate an entire room to your new home gym. That way you can close the door, crank up the music, block out the children arguing and focus on you.

However, a section of your garage or the back of your basement will also work. You just need enough room for a set of weights, a mat, a bench and a cardio machine, if you have one.

Prepare The Area

Put down a rubberized floor, especially if you’re in a basement or garage with concrete surfaces. You can purchase them pretty cheaply in foot-by-foot interlocking squares. Then hang mirrors.

This is important so you can watch your form when lifting weights. Also, you might want to put in a stereo system and TV for when you want to listen to music or watch instructional videos.

Decide How Much To Spend On Cardio Equipment

Cardio machines can get expensive and there are many types to choose amongst. If you’re a marathon runner, then you’ll probably want a treadmill. However, you can choose as many or as few as you want, such as an elliptical, stair stepper or stationary bike.

If you don’t want to break the bank for a fancy machine, then a good old jump rope will do the trick.

Choose Your Weights

You can go with a barbell weight system with resistance pulleys or just a set of dumbbells. Make sure you get a bench, so you can vary your lifting routine and properly stabilize yourself for certain exercises.

Make Space For Your Yoga Mat

Yoga mats are great for padding your knees, hands and back when doing abs and stretching — or for actually practicing yoga.

Many people don’t take the time to stretch after a workout, but it’s extremely important in order to improve flexibility, correct posture and prevent injuries. If you create a defined are to limber up, then it’s more likely to become a regular part of your routine.

5 Ways To Use Your Dead Christmas TreeThe holiday season is coming to an end. It’s time to pack up the stockings, and take the ornaments off the tree.

That tree was a beautiful Christmas decoration, but now that the evergreen is turning brown, and its needles are falling all over the carpet, you realize it’s time to get it out of the house.

But don’t just throw it away. You have several options. Here are five interesting ways to use your dead Christmas tree.

It’s For The Birds

Keep the tree in its stand and set it outside. You can put some birdhouses in it, or surround it with bird seed. The birds will appreciate your Christmas tree long after you’re tired of looking at it. Take off the tinsel first!

It’s For The Fish

If you (or your neighbor) has a pond, just drop the tree overboard and give it a proper sailor’s burial. A dead Christmas tree is the ultimate home for fish.

The fish can sleep easy behind the branches, and you can sleep easy, knowing your beloved tree is still getting some use. It’s a big help to those trying to keep a pond stocked for fishing.

It’s For The Plants

A dead Christmas tree can be an excellent gardening tool. Cut branches and place them around your perennials to help keep them warm. If you’ve been vacuuming up all those fallen needles, spread them around the garden.

They make great mulch. Better yet, rent a wood chipper, and chop up the whole tree. That’s even greater mulch. If you’re not a gardener, there are several organizations that will accept your tree as a donation.

Burn Baby Burn

Another option is simply use your tree as firewood. Evergreens are great for bonfires and outdoor fireplaces. They ignite really easily. But don’t burn them indoors! The creosote buildup can be dangerous.

Get Crafty

If you’re craving a more creative approach, there are several great dead Christmas tree craft ideas out there. Some people chop up the trunk and use cross sections as planters.

You can also paint a coat of polyurethane on some small sections, and use them as coasters. You could even attempt to make some homemade potpourri. The possibilities are endless.

The fate of your dead Christmas tree is in your hands. You can burn it, make a habitat for animals, make some mulch, or even make some coasters.

The important thing is not to let it end up in a landfill. These dead trees have so many better uses than rotting with the trash.

How To Build An Outdoor Fire PitWith most of the country easing into full-on winter weather, last-minute outdoor projects need to happen soon. And what better way to enjoy a cozy holiday season than by drinking hot chocolate and roasting marshmallows at your very own outdoor fire pit.

In one weekend, the steps below can help you build an outdoor fire pit and get you fired up about the cold!

Determine The Size And Location

The first order of business is to choose where to build your outdoor fire pit. You want to make sure it’s not too close to the house or overhanging trees.

Once you’ve found the spot, lay out a ring of stones and mark it with a shovel before you dig the hole. You’ll want it to be between 35-45 inches in diameter. This will allow a roaring fire, but it will also feel cozy and intimate.

Dig The Pit And Make A Trench

Make a hole six inches deep within the circle your marked using your stones. You want the sides to be straight and the bottom flat. Then dig down an extra six inches around the perimeter.

This trench should be wide enough to fit a ring of stone blocks that will be the base of your wall. Fill the six-inch deep trench with drainage gravel until it’s level with the center of your pit.

Lay The Stone Blocks

Lay out the stone blocks on top of the gravel. Place the first one and use a level to make sure it’s sitting squarely. Set the second block next to it and so on. Use a level to ensure everything is even.

For the second layer, squirt masonry adhesive in a snaking pattern and center a block on top of the seam of the first layer. Build up the wall until it’s about one foot above ground level.

Finish It Off

Fill the pit with gravel until you reach ground level. The gravel will help the base of the walls set straight. If you want to cover the outside of the pit walls with stone cap pieces, then try to fix them together like a puzzle using masonry adhesive.

Then you can either build a fire on top of the gravel or insert an iron campfire ring into the center. Once you’re finished, then it’s time to bundle up and get those marshmallows roasting!

5 Tips On Safely Hanging Those Christmas LightsChristmas lights can be the most festive of holiday decorations, but actually putting them up can be a huge pain. With these easy step-by-step instructions, you can safely hang Christmas lights outside your house in no time. That way you can get back to what’s important, family time.

Buy Your Lights

You’ll need Christmas lights of course. There are a lot of options. You can get colorful lights or classic white lights. There are icicle lights, blinking lights, classic large bulb lights, and more. Just pick whatever looks good. Remember that consistency is important.

Pick one or two types and stick with them. Also remember to measure your roof, bushes, trees, or whatever you plan to cover with lights. Without proper measurements you won’t know how many lights to buy.

Test The Lights

Be sure to test the lights before you hang them up. Nothing is more frustrating than hanging up all the lights and finding that they don’t work. There are several testers that you can buy or you can even make your own, but I recommend simply plugging in each strand individually before you hang them up.

Get Some Clips

You’ll also need clips to help attach the lights to the roof or the gutter. I recommend buying the more expensive clips. The cheap ones break, and cause more frustration than they’re worth. Make sure you measure the thickness of your gutter as well. The clips come in different sizes.

Automatic Timers Are Your Friend

Finally, you’ll need surge protector with a built-in timer. It’s important to turn off the lights during the day to save energy and keep your bulbs from burning out, but unless you want to be plugging and unplugging your lights all the time, get a timer. They’re cheap, easy to use, and convenient.

Find A Friend

Hanging lights by yourself is a bad idea. It requires a lot of climbing up and down the ladder and that can be dangerous. Have someone else hand you the lights up the ladder, and hold it steady so you can focus on clipping on the lights.

Also, hang them up during the day. They might look prettier at night, but you can wait. Putting them up at night can be a risky venture.

Christmas can be the happiest time of the year, and the lights and decorations are a big part of that. Don’t think of hanging lights as a chore. Get the whole family involved and make it a Christmas activity.

Just be sure you have all your materials ahead of time, you’ve measured out how much you need, and you’ve got a timer to turn them off and on for you. That way when it’s time to hang up the lights, it will take no time at all.

4 Safety Tips For Your Christmas Tree It’s Christmas time, it’s Christmas time – which means it’s time to get a tree for your home. Whether you get a real tree or an artificial one, it’s also time to think about Christmas tree safety.

Prevent A Fire Hazard

There’s a potential fire hazard that comes with real trees, a danger that’s lessened with artificial trees, but artificial trees have their own safety issues. 

For instance, those that spin on their bases shouldn’t be left to rotate on their own. Make sure the motor is turned off whenever you leave the room.

Even though safety precautions are more necessary with real Christmas trees, sometimes you can’t resist the fresh pine smell filling your home. Should you decide to go with a real Christmas tree, here are some safety precautions that should be followed to avoid fire hazards.

Safety Precautions For That Tree Of Yours

1. Place the tree as far from any heat sources as possible. While it may seem picturesque to have your tree close to the fireplace, the heat can dry out the tree and make it more susceptible to burning.

2. Fresh cut the tree. While you may have cut the tree down before bringing it home, you still need to cut a little bit more off the bottom just before you put it in the Christmas tree stand. This gives the tree a better ability to absorb the water in the stand, which stops it from drying out.

3. Don’t let the water run out. It’s important to stress that your Christmas tree needs to stay moist and green. To check for dryness, lightly grab the end of a branch and pull on it.  If several needles come off, it’s time to take it down. 

4. Don’t burn the tree to get rid of it. A dry tree blaze is hard to control, and pine generates a lot of creosote that can catch fire. There are safer ways to dispose of your tree including recycling your Christmas tree. To learn more about safe disposal of your tree, contact your local city or state.

Have fun decorating your home and tree and for Christmas. Just remember to be safe as you celebrate the season! If a new home is on your Christmas list, contact your trusted mortgage professional today.