Increase Your Energy Efficiency This Winter

Energy Efficiency

by Donna De Palma


Want to save money this winter and keep warm without cranking up the heat?  Winterizing tips that increase energy efficiency and keep you comfortable all winter long start with a home energy check-up.


Where’s that draft coming from?  

According to the U. S. Department of Energy, drafts waste 5% to 30% of the energy used in your home.  Drafts come in from any opening to the outside.  Under a door, block drafts with DIY draft snakes. Make or buy a simple fabric form, fill with sand so it stays in place, then place it under drafty doors.  Some of the most likely places where drafts come from are:

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Ensure the seals around your windows are filled in order to reduce drafts.

Seal leaks with caulking and weather stripping

Look for places in your home where different materials meet like corners, chimneys, or pipes and wires exiting your home.  Check around your foundation for areas where air might be escaping.  Electric wall plugs and switches can let cold air in. Pre-cut foam gaskets are easy to install and fit behind switch plates to prevent leaks.  Check around outlets and dryer vents to prevent warm air from escaping.



Your chimney is like an open window drawing warm air out. Close the damper on your fireplace when it’s not in use.  Remove window air conditioning units from windows so heat doesn’t escape.



Sealing the rim joist area in your basement makes a big difference when it comes to reducing drafts.  Look for air leaks in your attic and attic hatch.  Cover and seal leaks around an attic hatch with spray foam and rigid foam board, when necessary.



Although it gets a bad rap, plastic is a great buffer against drafts. Stapling plastic around windows is a useful method of keeping wind out.  A window insulation kit costs about $58 at any hardware store and, if installed properly, will be almost invisible.


Furnace filters matter

During the heating season, replace or clean your furnace filter monthly.  Airflow is restricted by a dirty filter and that increases energy demand.  A cheap and easy solution for swapping out filters is to install a whistle on your furnace that alerts you when your filter is clogged and needs replacing. You can buy one for $7.98 in a local hardware store.

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Change the filters on your furnace monthly.

Another great option is to purchase a permanent electrostatic filter for your furnace. Electrostatic filters make your furnace work more efficiently. On average they collect 88% of bacteria, mold, viruses and pollen before they have a chance to circulate through the house.  Compare that to a disposable fiberglass filter that traps only 10%-40% of debris.


Another option is a HEPA filter which removes 99.97% of airborne particles, but comes at a price.   If you choose an electrostatic or HEPA filter, prepare for a price tag of between $50-$1000.  These options pay back with the air quality inside your home and in energy efficiency.


Lower the temperature on the water heater

If your water heater is set to 140 Fahrenheit– a standard setting right out of the factory–lower it.  Lowering the temp to 120 Fahrenheit reduces your heating costs by 6%-10% and will provide you and your family with plenty of hot water in the winter months.


Run fans in reverse

Ceiling fans aren’t just for staying cool in summer.  Install ceiling fans that have a switch to reverse the direction of the blades.  Clockwise rotation of a ceiling fan makes your room warmer.  The warm air that’s rising to the ceiling is circulated back down to where you need it.  Ceiling fans in clockwise motion can cut as much as 10% off your heating bill.


Tune ups aren’t just for cars

It may not sound like much, but a clean and properly adjusted furnace will save you 5% on heating costs this winter.  Contact your local utility for a free annual check-up.  Maybe it’s time to upgrade to a more efficient furnace.  Energy Star-certified models save 15% – 20% on heat.  If your furnace is really old, replacing it could save you 50% or more on heating.


Energy Efficiency: Audit your usage

Perform an energy audit or hire an expert to assess your home’s energy needs.  If you hire a pro, it will cost you about $350.  The Department of Energy certifies Energy Star home performance contractors, trained to improve energy efficiency in residential homes.   Many government incentives– including tax credits–require that work be done by a government-certified contractor.  If you’re more of a DIYer, you can purchase a thermal leak detector for about $50 that spots hard-to-find drafts.


Stop the flow

Before winter howls in, drain your water lines and AC pipes.  Look for water pooled in your equipment.  Some air conditioning units have a shut-off valve.  Turn it off.  Look around the yard for hoses that need to be drained and stored for winter.  Shut off water spigots on the exterior of your home.


An extra layer of protection

By installing a storm door, you can increase energy efficiency by 45%.  Storm doors come in Energy Star-certified models. Energy Star-certified products must meet standards for energy efficiency and will qualify you for federal tax incentives.


Turn it down

energy efficiency
Turning down your thermostat a few degrees can save you money in the long run.

Turn down the thermostat when you go out and when you go to bed.  The average homeowner spends 50% – 70% of their energy budget on heating and cooling. When you don’t need the heat, turn it down.  A thermostat that’s lowered by one degree saves between 1% and 3% on your monthly bill.  Programmable thermostats take the guesswork out of how to set the temp in your home.  At a cost of $50 on average, you save $180 a year if you go programmable.


Monitor that energy use

An energy monitor lets you know how much electricity you’re consuming in real time. Select a device that indicates the amount of electricity each appliance is using.  Research shows that using and reading an energy monitor will significantly increase a home’s energy efficiency. Studies show that savings from an energy monitor alone can add up to a 15%-20% reduction each month.


Cozy up

Sounds old-fashioned but pulling out a sweater when when you feel a chill can save you dollars.  Estimates show wearing a lightweight sweater allows you to lower the thermostat by two degrees and a heavyweight sweater chisels four degrees off your room’s temperature.



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Insulated duct work can help increase home energy efficiency.


Ductwork is an important part of the infrastructure of your home.  Research shows that 10% -30% of heated or cooled air escapes from the ducts in an average home.  Old duct tape is the worse thing to use to seal ductwork. It dries up over time, allowing junctions and splices to open, spilling heated air into your attic or under the house.  Hire a professional to check your duct system and fix flaws.  You’ll save on average $140 a year, if your ducts are sealed properly. You can save roughly 10% of your heating bill by preventing leaky ducts.  Proper ductwork protects against dust and mold too.


More insulation please

Adding insulation saves money and increases the energy efficiency of your home.  Insulate your attic.  In an older home, it can be the most cost-efficient way to cut home heating costs.  Bulk up insulation between walls during a home renovation. Insulate pipes so hot water stays hot.  If your pipes are warm to the touch, they need to be insulated.  Pre-slit pipe foam, available in hardware stores, can be cut to size then fastened in place.  Insulating pipes also decreases the chance of pipes freezing in sub-zero temps.  Insulation is rated to measure heat-blocking power.  Look for the highest R-value that’s practical.  Pipe insulation is usually R-3.


Give yourself credit

There are lots of tax credits out there for homeowners who install renewable energy products or who upgrade the energy efficiency of their homes.  Incentives exist on the local, state and federal levels for replacing old windows and doors, adding insulation, HVAC upgrades and for furnace and water heater installations.  The federal government will reimburse 30% of your cost up to $1500 for most energy efficient home projects.  A low-income household qualifies for up to $6500 for winterization upgrades through programs administered by each state.  Check out Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency to see if you qualify.


Find an alternative

Alternative energy sources like solar panels, geothermal heating, biomass stoves, small wind turbines and fuel cells all carry a hefty price tag but will pay you back in the money you save.  Consider the long-term savings of going green by upgrading your home heating to one of the latest alternative sources.  Maximize federal incentives when you go green.  Many home energy efficiency incentives cap at $1500 but if you choose an alternative, incentives cover a full 30% of upfront costs.


Follow this checklist to make your home more comfortable this winter.  Then use the savings to escape and leave the snow and ice behind. A warm, sunny beach, a couple of beach chairs, hot sand, cool surf, kick back and, well, you get the idea.



Popular Mechanics

Real Simple

Consumer Energy Center

This Old House

Green Building Advisor

Annual Home Improvement Checklist: Interior


By Shannon Roxborough

Cold weather has fully set in, and now is the ideal time for your house to have a once-over, before the snow, ice and deep freeze arrives.  This is the second installment, here’s a roundup of everything interior items that should checked out, watched closely or repaired.




-Check for loose door hinges and doorknobs.


-Inspect the walls and floors for popped nails, loose boards, loose tiles and soft spots that could be a sign of problems.


-Examine ceilings for stains, which could indicate a roof or plumbing leak.


-Make sure ceiling fans and still secure and haven’t worked their way loose with use.


-Make sure ceilings, floors and areas above doors aren’t sagging or cracked in new places, which could mean a foundation or other structural issue.


-Check that the stair newel post is sturdy and note any loose banisters or balusters.


-Use a flashlight to check out the fireplace and up the chimney, looking for loose bricks, cracks, signs of animal nests, or excess soot that could cause a chimney fire. Be sure the damper works properly.


-Test smoke and CO detectors and replace batteries as needed.





-Look for loose outlet covers, receptacles, and boxes.


-Check outlets and the main panel for scorch marks, which could be a sign of loose or damaged wiring.


Test all GFCI outlets by plugging in a lamp or radio then hitting the test and reset buttons to make sure they work.





-Check pipes and shutoff valves for signs of rust, corrosion or leaks.


-Check the water pressure. Low pressure could indicate buildup in the line, faucet aerator or shower head.


-Check drains for speed of drainage. A slow drain may have a clog or a blocked vent pipe.


-Flush the toilets to make sure they operate properly and stop running. If not, open the tank and look for worn or damage parts.


-Drain the hot water heater to remove sediment or hire a professional to do it for you.


-Look for loose or cracked tiles in the shower or around sinks.


-Check the condition of caulk around the tub and shower and check for signs of mildew.


-Slide open and close shower doors to check them for sticking, rust or obstructions. Take a look at the gaskets around the door glass for gaps and tears.


-Turn on the shower and bath faucets and check for leaks around handles and valves. Make sure set screws around escutcheon plates and tight.


-Unscrew the shower head and look for collected sediment in it that could be effecting water pressure.


-Examine vent fans for obstructions or dust and clean them.


-Check washer hoses for signs of aging (cracks or brittleness) or leaks.


-Check dryer vents for tears. Remove vent line and vacuum or brush out lint in hose. Be sure to also to so around the lint screen inside unit.


Heating System


-Check registers and vents for loose or missing covers and screws.


-Check around radiators for leaks or floor damage.


-Use a flashlight to look into the furnace flue and for soot buildup or corrosion. Tap on it to see if rust falls. It it does, there may be an issue with condensation, which is caused by an inefficient unit. Have a HVAC contractor to service the system.


-Inspect the furnace for overall deterioration, rust, loose parts and other sources of potential problems.




-Test sink drainage and look for signs of faucet leaks.


-Look at all the cabinet doors and drawers to make sure they open and close properly. Check for loose hinges or sticking drawer slides.


-Turn on the garbage disposal and listen for signs of obstructions and motor problems.


-Try the stove burners for proper operation.


-Check the oven door gasket for signs of wear and tear.


-Make sure the gas shutoff valve is working. It should be able to turn completely (until it’s completely perpendicular to the pipe).


-Open the dishwasher and spin and lift the washer arm by manually to make sure it isn’t stuck. Be sure that nothing has dislodged the drain hose (it should arc up to prevent backwash from the drain into the dishwasher).


-Look for signs of leaking under and around the dishwasher.


The Attic


-Look around the attic space during daylight hours, with the lights turned off. Look for holes in the roofing that let light in.


-Examine joists and rafters for structural damage.


-Inspect vents for gaps.


-Check out fan motors for frayed wiring or loose screws.


-Check insulation for damage or damp spots.


Shannon Roxborough is a widely published freelance writer and editor whose work has appeared in numerous national magazines, newspapers and websites. An avid home improvement enthusiast, he has more than a decade of DIY experience and previously ran a property maintenance business.


Annual Home Improvement Checklist: Exterior


By Shannon Roxborough


With fall in full swing, now is the time to give your home a yearly check-up before Old Man Winter comes knocking.  In this, the first of a two-part series, here’s a roundup of things around the exterior of your property that may need attention, maintenance and upkeep:




-Check trees around the exterior of the house to be sure branches are not encroaching on power lines or other wiring.


-Check the asphalt or concrete on the driveway, sidewalks and walking paths for cracks, which can be trip hazards allow water in that will do more damage over the winter.


-Inspect porches and decks for loose railings or boards, damaged steps and sagging ceilings, being sure to make sure the posts are not loose or rotted and are still firmly in or mounted to the ground.


-Examine retaining walls for loose areas or bulges, which could collapse with heavy rain or snowfall. Make sure drainage holes are clear of debris.


-Make sure fences, stone/brick walls and gates are not leaning or damaged in any way, something that will become worse during storms and freeze-and-thaw cycles.


-Check for stains on your home’s siding, which could be a sign of water damage or a gutter or roof issue.


-Make note of any peeling paint, missing brick mortar or cracked stucco on the outside of your home.


-Check the gutters and downspouts for debris and pitch problems, preferably on a rainy day. Listen for gutter spill-over and look for stains on the soffit that indicate signs of leakage.


-Look for signs of insect, bird or bat nests in soffits, eaves and attic vents.


The Foundation


-Make sure the foundation is free of cracks and bulges.


-Scan the sill for signs of rot or insect activity. Be on the lookout for raised mud channels, a sure sign of termites. Use a sharp knife or other sharp object to check for wood damage.


-Check for signs of leaks in areas where pipes run through the walls or foundation and on all pipes exposed to the elements.


-Be sure the grade of the ground around the foundation of your home slopes away from the house.


The Roof

-Take a look at the roofing. Are there any cracks, missing shingles or crumbling pieces? Check asphalt shingles for dry, blistering, alligatoring or curling; wood for rot and cracks; slate and tile for broken pieces; and flat roofs for holes that may let in water.


-Pay special attention to areas under trees, where falling branches or animals (like squirrels) can cause damage. Once the leaves have fallen, look closely at spots where branches touch the house.


-Check the roof flashing, vents and chimney caps for damage or corrosion.


-Examine the roof for moss, mildew and debris.


-Make sure the chimney isn’t leaning on the chimney and check that the flashing around it is in good condition and doesn’t need sealing.


-Keep an eye out for any signs of potential animal activity or entry points for critters (including bats).


Water Systems


-Send a sample of well water to your county cooperative extension to test it for chemicals and bacteria, and make sure that the well cover is tightly sealed while ensuring the pump is still accessible.


Check the sump pump by pouring water on it, to see if it turns on automatically.


-If you have a septic system, look around the tank or field for soggy ground or too much greenery, which could mean the tank is either full or failing.


Doors and Windows


-Check the doors and windows for smooth operation, signs of swelling and sticking points.


-Examine the weather stripping around exterior doors and windows for wear, tear and potential infiltration (wind, water and animals) points.


-Check all windows for cracks in the glass and/or loose or missing glazing around panes.


-Look for peeling paint and other signs of wear on window frames and stools, especially in the bottom corners. Check that weep holes in the bottom of the windowsill outside haven’t been caulked over, blocking drainage.


-Take a look at thresholds for cracks that could let water reach the sill.




-Check the garage door’s opening and closing action while scanning for cracks in its surface or dents in the tracks.


-Be sure tool storage and hanging racks aren’t create a fall or trip hazard.



Shannon Roxborough is a widely published freelance writer and editor whose work has appeared in numerous national magazines, newspapers and websites. An avid home improvement enthusiast, he has more than a decade of DIY experience and previously ran a property maintenance business.


A Grand Entrance: Design tips for foyers and entryways


by Donna De Palma


It’s not just curbside appeal that makes a home stand out from all the rest.  Smart design choices can make the entryway to your home welcoming, even grand, so family and friends feel at home–and like royalty– when they walk through the door.


Foyers, vestibules or entryways, first impressions matter.  Define your entryway with color, lighting and a few select furnishings to impress.  What you add to your entryway with depend on the amount of available space.  Even with limited space, by choosing the right colors and furnishings, you can make a big impact.


There’s nothing like a spectacular lighting fixture to set the tone in an entryway. Suspend a pendant light or chandelier to add sparkle to existing lighting. A foyer with high ceilings will appear more intimate when you hang fixtures low enough for full visual effect but not too low to cause a hazard.


Color carves out a space and helps the eye separate one space from another.  Warm colors appear welcoming; cool, subdued colors are more relaxing.  Use color strategically to make your foyer look larger or more intimate depending on the space you have to work with.

Foyer 3

Paint crown molding or baseboard molding white or a lighter shade than your wall color to articulate the space.  Mirrors bring a crisp, bright light to any room.  Position a mirror on a wall that reflects light from a window or other lighting source.

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Select flooring that’s durable enough for wet shoes and boots.  If you specify a floor that can’t take much wear and tear, a carefully-selected runner protects fine surfaces while becoming an important design element. A plush, high-quality runner in a hue you love works best to keep your guests on a path that leads to other areas of your home.

Foyer 1

If you’re on a budget and have a staircase that’s visible from your front door, a fun trick to create another level of interest is to paint stair risers near your foyers in a contrasting color to steps. This draws the eye upward so guests see more of your home upon entering.

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Selecting foyer-sized furniture that’s inviting and functional is key to a warm welcome for your guests.  Tuck a chair next to a table for a place to stop off on your way into or out of your home.  If pressed for space, consider a floating console that conveniently mounts on a wall to free up floor space underneath.  A long, slender table becomes a perfect choice for small entryways.

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Add a tasteful table lamp to cast a warm glow.  If you need more seating in your entryway for visitors to remove shoes or boots, try a bench.   Benches make great resting places. Choose one in a color that matches your wall or flooring.  Or make a style statement with a bench in a contrasting color or style to amp up the look.


Even a single piece of artwork can make an entryway memorable.  Make sure yours is unique and says something about who you are and what you like.


And don’t forget the front door.  A front door can make or break the curb appeal of your home.  Invest in a door that’s unique and works with the style of your home.  Hardware matters so be sure knobs and handles have pizzazz– either brass or silver calls attention to your door depending on your home’s exterior.  A brass kickplate adds shine and polish and protects your door’s exterior finish.


Don’t be color shy.  If you have a painted front door, choose a color that stands out from your house.  Find a color that complements your house color but not too conservative otherwise no one will notice your entryway which is, after all, one of the main features of any home.


Design your entryways so it welcomes you each and every time you walk through your door.  No matter what size, it can be grand if you see the design potential in this unique space.




Better Homes and Gardens


Martha Stewart Living

The Top Ten Things That Every New Home Needs

new home

by Donna De Palma


If you’ve just purchased a new home, you probably have a checklist of “must haves” to complete prior to moving day.   This top ten list of what every homeowner needs, is a great place to start.


1. Window treatments

Cover your windows.  We all want to let the sunshine in, however, window treatments are essential to a comfortable, stylish home.  Choose versatile treatments that allow plenty of natural light in during the day and privacy when the sun goes down. Whether you choose blinds, curtains, Roman shades, shutters or valances, bring color and pattern into your room by selecting window coverings that set the tone for your room’s decor.  When hanging custom shades, choose a fabric that complements or matches your sofa and chairs in a living room or great room.   Luxurious fabrics like linen or silk make a dramatic statement when floor length curtains are your choice.  The extra length lets curtains puddle slightly on the floor.  Valances can add an additional decorative element to a room.  Layer curtains with sheers underneath in a fresh-colored fabric to create more options for light control.  Have fun with your window treatments.  The right window treatment can turn any window into a stunning focal point in a room or the perfect backdrop for fine furnishings.

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2. Create a place to relax  

Every home needs a special spot to unwind; a serene space to retreat to at the end of your day.  Whether it’s a sunroom, man cave or just a cozy corner where you can enjoy a good read, we all need a place to put our feet up and forget the worries of the day.  Place a comfortable chair near a reading lamp. Don’t forget an end table to put your cup of coffee on.  Groupings of furniture should be cozy and functional.

A bathroom that’s designed like a spa is a prefect place to indulge yourself.  Try a soaking tub in a room that features a soft color palette, dimmers and plush fabrics for a fabulous end to a stressful day.  Choose a room in your new home that will be your well-deserved retreat.


3. Have a color scheme

Integrate the spaces in your home by selecting a color palette that carries throughout.  Choose a palette of neutral tones in subtly-varied hues to create continuity in an open floor plan.  Or select contrasting colors of the same tone to designate different functions for different spaces.  Colors you can live with that work well with your furnishings are key to a comfortable home that you’ll want to spend lots of time in.

Experiment with accent colors. A little bit of bold color goes a long way if you want to add drama to your color scheme.  Remember colors look differently when next to other colors.  They also appear differently when they are in different light so bring samples of your color choices to your new home before committing to a color palette.


4. A place to lay your head  

There is nothing more important in your home than the mattress you sleep on each night.  Your mattress is a great place to splurge on comfort.  Trying out a mattress is essential to a good fit.  Bigger is usually better especially if you’re sharing your mattress with someone you love.  Pillows matter.  And so do sheets, blankets and bed coverings.  Think comfort first, then style.  And don’t forget luxury.  If you want crisp sheets, try Percale.  For a softer feel, Egyptian, pima and supima cottons reign supreme.  Cotton is soft, durable and breathes well.  Thread count matters but highest isn’t always best. Generally, the higher the thread count, the softer the sheet and the more likely it will wear well.  A good choice is a sheet that ranges between a 200 and 800 thread count.

Mix fabrics, textures and pattern to match your style.  When choosing a comforter, coverlet or duvet, touch the fabric to see if it’s something that will be comfortable to lie on.  Pillows come in all shapes and sizes from boudoir to bolster.  Mix them up to add interest.


5. Storage. Storage. Storage

There’s one thing none of us can get enough of and that’s storage. Clutter doesn’t improve the style in any room.  Find containers, baskets, shelves and storage units that take clutter out of sight.  Baskets make interesting accessories to hide excess stuff.  Storage units come in many forms.  Be creative.  Stow away personal items in containers that are easy to access.

Whether it’s bright colors and punchy fabrics or pretty weaves and rustic textures, containers can add style to your space.  Just remember one simple rule.  If your storage units are out of sight, make them strictly functional but if they’re on display, they need to integrate well with the overall design of the room.


6. A Personal Touch  

Your home should be a reflection of who you are.  Create a collection of your favorite things from your family, your travel, or your childhood.   Display your collection on shelves or a wall dedicated to memorabilia.  Find accessories that showcase your personality.  If you love the ocean, search for themes that reflect your love of the water.  If you have a unique vintage collection, group items in a place where they can enjoy center stage.      


7. Remember artwork  

No one wants to live in a furniture showroom.  Artwork adds a personal touch to your home.  Finding artwork you can live with takes time and effort. Hang items on your walls that you will love for years.  Consider subject matter, color palette and style. Your artwork doesn’t have to be pricey, just something you adore.

Rotate artwork on your walls.  A wall of art on a wall going upstairs makes a perfect gallery space.  Don’t be afraid to step outside your comfort zone in small ways with your choices of wall art.

Consider scale.  Artwork shouldn’t disappear on a wall or compete with another center of interest in a room.  Like any accessory, artwork needs to relate to nearby furnishings, wall colors and finishes.


8. Bring the green indoors

Even if you don’t have a green thumb, plants bring life into your home.  There are houseplants that need very little care to thrive.  Plants improve the air quality in your new home and they make a house feel like a home.  Vary the height and variety of plants. Try grouping plants near windows. Taller plants such as a Palm or Ficus, Rubber Tree or even a Norfolk Pine in front of a window add drama to your room.  More exotics like Ponytail Palm and Saguaro Cactus are also an option for a sunny corner of your home.

Some low maintenance varieties of house plant with lush green foliage are Philodendron, English Ivy, Arrowhead Vine, Boston Fern and Jade plants.


9. Create an outdoor space

Expand the possibilities for outdoor living with a deck, patio, outdoor grill or fireplace —even a full outdoor kitchen.  Discovering the joy of outdoor living adds a new dimension to your new home.

Consult an expert when planning outdoor space.  Consider a location for your patio or deck by deciding what function it’s going to fulfill and at what time of day it will get the most use.

If you plan on using your outdoor space for entertaining, position it near an exterior door that’s close to your kitchen. If it faces west and you plan to entertain in the evening, you’ll need a shade structure like a gazebo, pergola or canopy.

Think function to maximize use of your outdoor space. Planting shade trees nearby will block direct sunlight and extend its use.   If your patio will be adjacent to a pool and serve as a daytime escape, remember, it will heat up, so lighter colored materials are best. Dark colors absorb sunlight and will get too hot. If your stone, tile or cement is too light, it can be blinding and far too reflective for our eyes.  Following a few practical guidelines will make outdoor living a feature of your new home you can’t live without.


10. Consider safety for your new home

Fire happens unexpectedly—even in a new home.  Be prepared for kitchen fires with a fire blanket stored conveniently by your stove.  Fire extinguishers are a must in all homes.   Make sure your smoke detectors are functioning effectively and are the best type for your home.  Have an emergency plan in place for family members; a place where your entire family can meet if your home needs to be evacuated.


Finally, to make your new home more than just a place to live but a place for you and your family to thrive, be a good neighbor.  These top ten tips can ensure that your new home will be a safe, comfortable place that everyone can enjoy.




The nest




8 End-of-Summer Tasks for Homeowners

By Shannon Roxborough

Summer can wreck havoc on your home, both outside and in. Soaring temperatures and high humidity cause surfaces to crack, chip and separate, contribute to dust, dirt and debris build-up, and create a breeding ground for harmful bacteria, mold and mildew.

With the season winding down and fall just around the corner, now is the time for homeowners to get ready for the cooler months and avoid potentially costly fixes down the line.

Here are eight preventative maintenance tasks to keep your home in tip-top shape as summer fades:

Protect the Porch, Deck or Patio

Give outdoor areas a good general cleaning then inspect them for signs of damage or deterioration. Repair holes and cracks in wood with a quality epoxy-based filler. For brick and stone surfaces, use the proper mortar or sealant to keep damage to a minimum. Sand or scrape flaking or chipping paint or stain, then recoat the surface before fall rains arrive to keep moisture at bay.

Repair Outdoor Surfaces

Fill any cracks in your paver, concrete or asphalt driveway, walkways and paths to minimize trip hazards and prevent the coming rain (and eventual snow and ice) from causing more damage. For concrete cracks less than a half-inch wide, run a bead of acrylic latex repair compound into the seam then smooth with a putty knife. For larger cracks, trowel on a vinyl concrete patching compound and let it cure (a full day before foot traffic; three days for vehicles). Repair blacktop with asphalt filler or patch. And remember to always start with a clean, dry surface.

Weatherproof Windows and Doors

Use latex or silicone caulk to seal gaps larger than ⅛ inch around windows and doors to keep the elements out and reduce your seasonal heating bill by up to 15 percent. Use foam weather-stripping on the sides and top of doors, and install a door sweep on the bottom to keep drafts out. For windows, use adhesive-backed closed-cell foam on the bottom of the sash. For looses sashes, install plastic V-channel weather-stripping in the groove the sash fits into, then secure it with finish nails.

Inspect the Gutters, Roof and Attic

end of summer projects home improvement rochester ny

Leaky gutters and overflow due to debris clogs can result in water damage to the foundation and basement or crawlspace walls. So, Take a good look at the gutters and downspouts and repair problem areas with a waterproof sealant. Check your roof for leaks and water damage before the rainy season to keep minor issues from becoming major ones. Address small roof leaks with tri-polymer elastomeric sealant in a caulk tube. From inside, inspect the attic on a bright, sunny day or during a steady rain to look for rays of light or water infiltration.

Check Your Appliances

Thoroughly clean your stove and oven, being sure to use a degreaser to remove any build-up from the range hood or vent fan. Vacuum behind and underneath the fridge to remove dust, dirt and pet hair from the coils, which can interfere with performance. Check the washer to make sure that it is level and plumb, and clean the dryer vent of accumulated lint with a long-handled brush.

Tend to the Air Filter

Summer humidity causes moisture that spawns bacteria, mold and mildew on dusty air filters. Wash your reusable HVAC filter and leave it to air dry in the sun. For disposable furnace filters, buy a replacement at your local home improvement or hardware store (be sure to write down the size printed on it) or order an upgrade—a hypo-allergenic, mildew resistant filter—online.

Give Bathrooms the Once Over

Pathogens tend to build up faster in bathrooms during the humid summer months. Use a strong soap scum remover on your sink, tub, tile and shower surfaces. Spray any mold or mildew with a bleach-based killer (or 10 percent bleach solution—1¼ cup of household bleach per gallon of water). Allow cleaned grout to dry completely then repair any cracks with new grout or reseal with silicone caulk.

Clean the Kitchen Sink, Garbage Disposal and Dishwasher

Pour garbage disposal cleaner down the drain to remove small clogs and disinfect the line. Tackle any food stains or rust in the sink with bleach or a calcium, lime and rust remover. Take out the dishwasher filter and soak it in warm, soapy water for 15 minutes. After replacing it, add two cups of distilled white vinegar to the bottom of the dishwasher and run it empty for one heavy cleaning cycle.

Shannon Roxborough is a widely published freelance writer and editor whose work has appeared in numerous national magazines, newspapers and websites. An avid home improvement enthusiast, he has more than a decade of DIY experience and previously ran a property maintenance business.