How to Free Up Space in Your Garage

For some people, their garage ends up being a dumping ground for unwanted or unused items. And for others, it’s a place that’s desperately needed for storage, but a little assistance is required when it comes to organizing it in a functionally user-friendly way. Organizing your garage doesn’t have to be hard nor does it have to be a 100% DIY project. There are plenty of things you can easily do yourself in an effort to organize your garage, but don’t feel as if you have to do everything yourself.

How to Begin Organizing Your Garage

Before you begin, take some time to walk through your garage and think about what you have and how you want the end result to function. It’s best to either have a written organizational plan or a vision of where you want things to go based on how often each item is used and how it will be stored. Then you should divide your available space into zones for a more systematic means of organizing your things.

DIY Tips for Decluttering Your Garage

The easiest way to begin decluttering your garage is to set up a staging area. You can easily do this by creating zones for your staging area just like you did for your initial plan. Your zones can be set up in the middle of your garage, the driveway, your yard, or any other nearby area where you can systematically pile your things into groups before putting them into their permanent zone in your garage. The reason for this is that you might have one box full of things that should be stored in different zones based on how often you use them (like seasonal decorations, sporting equipment, etc.).

1. Assign your zones. For example, trash should go directly into a trash can, dumpster, Bagster, etc. so you only have to handle it once. You should make every effort to donate or throw away as many things as possible. This will make it easier to organize the things you do need in the most user- friendly way. Your other temporary zones could include a space for each member of your family, seasonal decorations, summer, winter, paint related items, dog stuff, etc.

You will probably also have a variety of items you aren’t quite sure what to do with. Put these in a separate zone of their own, so you can go back over them later after you’ve emptied out the rest of your garage.

2. Go through everything in your garage piece by piece and place each item in the temporary zones you created for organizing.

3. Once your garage has been emptied and everything is in a temporary organizing zone, you will then have an idea of what types of storage you need and be able to approximate how many storage bins, boxes, etc. you will need to put them in. This will also help you determine how big each permanent zone in your garage will need to be once you begin putting everything back in its designated space (zone).

Unique Ways to Free Up Space in Your Garage

Here are some great ways to create space in your garage using the areas you might not normally consider for storage.

  • Build ceiling hugger shelves that will hang from the ceiling of your garage for long flat items such as ladders, wood, folding tables, etc.
  • Install a fold-down desk. This is a desk that is stored upright against a wall, then folded down when you need a solid workspace, but it doesn’t take up valuable garage space when not in use.
  • Put wheels on a freestanding workbench so it can be moved around when you need it. Then it can be put back into the corner or another storage area when you’re done. This could be a table that you put wheels on. Then a framed pegboard sheet can be nailed to the long side of it to hang your tools. With this idea, you can also build some shelving underneath the table for additional storage, which is great for shop vacs, air compressors, tool boxes, etc.

Professional Help for Organizing Your Garage

If you have the need for a more functional space in your garage than you can effectively do yourself, don’t hesitate to hire a contractor. Hiring a contractor to design and build out your garage into a functional space is one of the best ways to make the most of the limited space you have.

A contractor who does this for a living might very well have ideas you wouldn’t have otherwise thought of. Contractors are great for building custom cabinets, professional workbenches, tool storage walls, bins, customized compartments for hobbies, or building designated spaces for each member of your family, etc.

The Bottom Line

The best way to free up space in your garage is by getting rid of everything you don’t need or use, and trying to elevate as many things a possible by hanging them from the ceilings and walls.  Additionally, you should also put some thought into the finished product prior to beginning, so you end up with a functional space that works for the entire family.

And, you should never hesitate to hire a contractor when you don’t have the time or the skills necessary to properly do the job yourself. Sometimes spending the money on a contractor is cheaper than trying to do everything yourself, especially if you don’t really have the expertise to do things right the first time around.

How to Put Your Home’s Maintenance on Autopilot

Your home’s maintenance can often get put on the backburner, and by no fault of your own. Life, work, family —it’s easy to push your home’s maintenance to the lowest spot on the totem pole, especially when your home looks and feels like it’s working just fine.

Nevertheless, maintaining your home is one of your primary responsibilities as a homeowner, and good home upkeep can prolong the life of many of the systems in your home. It also helps to keep and add value to your property. But what’s the busy, working professional to do?

The answer is to put your home’s maintenance on autopilot. With a little bit of preplanning and your resolve to buckle down when maintenance calls, you can keep your home in tip-top shape without feeling overwhelmed.

Follow these steps to put your maintenance on autopilot:

Step #1: Organize Tasks by Season

One of the best ways to stay ahead of home maintenance is to organize tasks by season. This will ensure you’re not racing to clean the gutters before a heavy downpour or that you get stuck in the winter with a malfunctioning furnace.

Below are some of the basic tasks you should do during each season, but feel free to add others that fit your particular style of home.

Spring

  • Check the drainage around your home. This includes gutters and downspouts, as well as making sure water can easily move away from your home and won’t pool up in undesirable areas.
  • Inspect the exterior of your home. Look for any damaged siding, cracks or general wear and tear, and make repairs as needed.
  • Consider having your air conditioning serviced in preparation for the hot summer months.
  • Clean windows and screens and repair any areas of concern.
  • Inspect your roof for any signs of wear and tear, and consult with a professional for any needed repairs.

Summer

  • Clean and repair deck and patio, as needed.
  • Summer is a playground for pests and insects. Take care of any pest problems you may have and take preventative measures.
  • Check and clean dryer vents and other exhaust vents on your home.

Fall

  • Flush your water heater and check for any signs of age or deterioration.
  • Get your heating system ready for winter. Consider hiring a professional for an inspection.
  • Get your chimney cleaned if you have one.
  • Get ready for winter —purchase supplies like sidewalk salt, shovels, etc.

Winter

  • Inspect your attic’s insulation and watch for any areas that might need replacement.
  • Test all smoke and carbon monoxide detectors in your home.
  • Insulate any exposed plumbing in your attic, garage, basement or exterior of your home.

Step #2: Choose Your Technology

With so much technology available to us, Step #2 towards putting your home maintenance on autopilot is to choose a technology that will alert you when it’s time to take care of these (and other) maintenance tasks.

Apps like HomeSavvy, ChorePad, and HomeRoutines can be used to build home maintenance to-do lists, and the app can alert you based on your preferences. You can also use Google Calendars to set email and phone reminders to keep you on task.  

Even if you write a list and put it on your fridge, taking the time to organize your tasks into a list and prioritize them by season will keep you organized and knowing what’s next.

Step #3: Resolve to Take Action

Once you’ve taken the steps to put your home’s maintenance on autopilot, it’s time to resolve to take action. When that buzzer rings or that email reminds you it’s time for a maintenance task, don’t let the time pass. Home maintenance only becomes overwhelming when it piles up.

Perhaps you set aside one weekend a month that’s dedicated to home maintenance. Whatever your schedule, your home will thank you.

When in Doubt … Glasshouse

Whether you’re simply too busy to commit to home maintenance or don’t have the energy or ability to stay on top of it, there’s another way! The real autopilot is Glasshouse.

By subscribing to our home maintenance services, you’ll never have to think about checking your water heater or changing air filters again. Glasshouse offers routine check ups, repairs and updates, and can deal with problem areas around your house before any permanent damage is done. We have pre-set maintenance schedules that ensure your home is kept in tip-top shape.

To learn more, connect with our team today or reach out to your contractor or builder for more information on home maintenance services.

5 DIY Ideas for Renovating Your Living Room

Do you want to renovate your living room, but have held off because of budget? While full-scale remodels can be costly—according to Pro Referral, the average price to remodel is $1,649, and that price goes up exponentially with expensive renovations like lighting and flooring installation—the great news is you can make significant changes to your living room without spending thousands of dollars. Even better: you don’t need to hire a contractor.

Take renovations into your own hands with these simple DIY tips and ideas. You’ll quickly find that small changes go a long way.

Repaint or Redecorate Your Walls

Adding a little color or redoing your current color scheme can bring new life to the living room. A can of paint costs about $30, making this a budget-friendly way to give this gathering space the facelift you’re looking for. Do it right with a paint roller, taping off the walls and protecting the floor with a paint cover or tarp. To make give your paint job a little flair, layer colors for a more textured look or use distressing techniques to give that trendy, vintage vibe.

You can also change the look and feel of your living room by adding artwork to your walls. Check local thrift stores and consignment shops for less-expensive pieces or add some mirrors for extra light and shimmer. Bonus: well-placed mirrors make the room look bigger, according to Get The Most From Your Square Footage.

Install Glass Doors on Your Fireplace

As the centerpiece of your room, the fireplace is one of the best ways to update the look and feel without putting in a lot of time and money. Start by replacing your old, dirty screen or ceramic fireplace doors with prefabricated glass doors. These add elegance and style to your living room, giving the space a chic, modern look.

Glass doors are easy to install if you follow the correct procedure. Experts at BrickAnew explain the DIY process:

  • Step 1: Remove your old fireplace doors so you can see the amount of space you have for your new doors.
  • Step 2: Measure your fireplace so you know the exact dimensions.
  • Step 3: Determine the make and model of your fireplace, so you can find the right doors for your particular unit.
  • Step 4: Order new doors and install following manufacturer instructions. In most cases, all you need is a screwdriver.

New glass doors typically start around $200. If that’s not within your budget, you can also repaint the brick or refresh decorations on the mantle. Replace old items with new candles, Pinterest-worthy decorative pieces, fresh flowers, etc.

Upgrade Your Floor

There are a number of ways to update your living room floor. If you want an entirely new look, install wood floors and try a new layout like a parquet or herringbone design. Replacing wood floors costs $4,430, on average, according to Home Advisor and is best done by a professional.

The next best option is to re-stain it to add a bright, newly finished look, which is much less expensive.

If you prefer carpet in your living room, change the color or style. Better yet, use inexpensive accent rugs that are both budget friendly and versatile.

Change Your Furniture

While buying a whole new furniture set can be expensive, you can find nice pieces at thrift shops or estate sales. Remember: you don’t need to replace every piece of furniture in the living room. Adding one new piece can bring new life to a stale space. Think: new coffee table, interesting bookshelf or set of unique lamps. If you want to make the most out of a small space, try using furniture pieces that do double duty, like a trunk. This gives you more storage space and a new coffee table.

You can also rearrange your current furniture; a new furniture layout can change the entire look and feel of your living room. Check out these living room arrangement ideas from Better Homes and Gardens for inspiration.

Get Crafty

Use your own creativity to add new items to your living room. Paint a picture for your wall (or ask a friend), mold a bowl for the coffee table, do your own real or fake flower arrangements, or sew a blanket or pillow for the couch. Do you collect anything like vintage plates or antique spoons? Find an inexpensive cabinet to put these items on display.

Save your money and renovate your living room yourself. Try one or a few of these ideas to give your living room a whole new look without spending more than you can afford.


About the Author

Jessica Thiefels has been writing and editing for more than 10 years and is now a professional freelancer and consultant. She’s worked with a variety of real estate clients, and has written for Forbes, Inman, House Hunt Network, Homes.com and more. Follow her on Twitter @Jlsander07.

DIY Home Energy Audit

Small problems can add up to a lot — just consider the idea that Americans spend more than $300 billion a year on energy that’s wasted because of drafty doors and windows. If you’re a homeowner concerned about your share of that hefty energy bill, you’re probably checking your house for any cracks or gaps around your door and window frames.

However, there are numerous other glitches around your home that can contribute to a higher energy bill that can be fixed easily. The difficulty with solving these little problems, however, is knowing what they are and where to find them. Although hiring a professional to conduct an energy audit can be a great idea for catching all of the biggest and smallest inefficiencies in a home, a regular DIY home energy audit may be one way homeowners can stay on top of any potential issues and fix them before they become larger complications.

The following checklist covers the most common areas around the home where small problems can have a negative impact on its energy efficiency. With it, you’ll be able to conduct a simple DIY energy audit and keep those little problems around your home from adding up on your energy bills.

DIY_Home_Energy_Audit_Checklist

Infographic brought to you by Mendel Plumbing and Heating

How to Upgrade Your Home Into a Smart House

A significant aspect of modern homes today include home automation and a variety of “smart” technologies. However, not everyone can afford these types of homes. Although you may not currently live in a modern home, there are a number of ways you can upgrade your house and make it “smart.”

Smart Lights

Traditional lighting and light bulbs only offer you the simple action of turning a switch on and off while smart light systems come with a variety of options that you can customize to fit your habits and needs. Most smart lights are controlled through a smartphone app, where you can control the brightness, color and even time it to match your schedule. A great example and perhaps one of the most popular options on the market is the Philips Hue, which also lets you sync up to your music, television and video games in order to immerse you in the media.

Smart Thermostats

Perhaps the smart gadget best known to pay for themselves is the smart thermostat. By learning your habits and adjusting accordingly, smart thermostats can save a significant amount on your utility bills. If you’re on vacation and don’t need your home to be warmed or cooled, it can be turned off completely and if you forget to adjust the temperature when you leave for work, you can simply open up the smartphone app and complete this task remotely.

Smart Hubs

A smart hub acts as a gateway for your other smart home devices. It can be controlled from your smartphone and you can use it to control every other supported smart device in your home. They can make things incredibly convenient and there are a vast array of different platforms, apps, and hardware vendors for you to choose from to suit your needs. One of the newest hubs include the Amazon Echo, which offers you convenience and efficiency even from a different room. With the voice-controlled AI, Alexa, you can order a pizza, add items to your grocery list and start playing music without ever having to pick up your phone.

Smart Cameras

Having smart cameras in and/or around your house not only offer convenience but can be a vital part of your home security system. With smart cameras synced up to your phone, you can keep an eye on your house while you’re away, check back on clips from any timestamp and get alerts on your smartphone app if your cameras catch anything suspicious.

Smart Doorbells

Synced up with a camera, smart doorbells allow you to see who is at your door when someone rings your doorbell. Models like the Skybell Video Doorbell allow you to snap a picture when your doorbell is rung and activate when it detects any motion. Like smart cameras, you can look back at clips on the mobile app on-demand. Additionally, many versions offer two-way audio, night vision and can sync up to your smart hub.

Smart Locks

If you’ve ever ran out the door in a hurry and forgotten whether or not you locked the door, a smart lock may ease your worries. With a smart lock, you can lock or unlock your door from anywhere in the world and not have to fumble through your bag or pockets for your keys. Some even keep track of who enters and leaves your home, allows you to grant and refuse access to anyone you choose.

Smart TVs

Many smart TVs come bundled with streaming content services, such as Netflix and Hulu and have native apps that allow you to surf the web, connect to social media and listen to music. Smart TVs connect to your internet so you can stream virtually anything and run a variety of entertainment apps and casual games. Some television sets come with a camera or have an optional add on camera accessory and can allow you to access to video-calling services, like Skype.
Upgrading your home and making it “smart” doesn’t have to be complicated or even require a huge upheaval. Many of the gadgets and systems mentioned previously can easily be installed and allow you the immediate benefits of home automation. Create a smart home system that works best with you and your home by choosing any combination of smart home technologies.


About the Author

Maricel Tabalba is a freelance writer who is interested in writing about smart gadgets, emerging tech trends and environmentally friendly advice. She earned her Bachelor of Arts in English with a minor in Communication from the University of Illinois at Chicago.

How to Maintain Energy Efficiency

If you are a new convert to energy efficient living, you should start with an energy audit. This way you know exactly where your energy is being wasted and how you can make it more efficient. Then you have to maintain energy efficiency.

If you don’t change air filters, leave lights on because they are LEDs, or haven’t upgraded your thermostat to a programmable one, you are not really saving much. Fortunately there are some very basic ways that you can boost your home’s energy efficiency.

Open Up Your Windows – Harness Sunlight (or Block It)

Your windows are a huge source of energy savings and waste. You can use the sun to your advantage in the summers by opening up your blinds and using natural light to brighten up your interiors while the sun is out.

By the same token, direct sunlight through windows that are not well insulated could be making your air conditioning work overtime. Use curtains and drapes to temper direct sunlight if you don’t have insulated windows; same thing in the winter to keep cold drafts out to save on heating bills.

Of course, in concert with natural light, you should have already switched from incandescent and halogen bulbs to LEDs. If you haven’t, you should do so now. LEDs last 10 times longer than traditional bulbs and can save you close to a hundred dollars a year by just replacing your most used light bulbs.

Turn Down the HVAC

For every degree you turn your HVAC down, you knock 1% of off your annual heating and cooling bill. Your HVAC system is by far the biggest energy draw in your home. If you take time to adjust your thermostat down when you are away and when you go to sleep, it can take around 10% off of your heating and cooling costs in a year.

One way to do that is to invest in a programmable thermostat. That way you can set it to turn on and off or go up and down on a timer. This one simple change can add up to close to $200 in savings per year.

You can double your savings by taking advantage of mild and balmy days by turning your HVAC off completely, opening windows, and letting your ceiling fans do the work. They use a lot less energy than your A/C unit and can be extremely effective at slashing your energy bills in spring and fall.

Plug Holes and Cracks

A lot of energy efficiency is lost through cracks and holes throughout your house. There could be a crack in your window sill, holes around your hanging lights, and drafts coming from your attic.

Go to any hardware store for a caulk gun and some caulk. Then seal any leaks, holes, and cracks that you find inside and outside of your house to maintain energy efficiency. It can save you over $200 per year for this change alone.

Have Your HVAC Unit Inspected

Having your HVAC inspected and tuned up at least once a year can add up to more than $400 in savings over the year. Don’t attempt to do this yourself. Professionals are trained to fine tune your system motors, your gas connections, and voltage among other things to find leaks and energy waste.

Change Your Filters

Just like direct sunlight beaming into your living room can tax your air conditioning, clogged and dirty air filters will block cool and heated air, also making your HVAC systems work overtime. By simply changing your filters every three months and cleaning them at least once a month, you will not only reduce your utility bills, but your indoor air will be much cleaner.

Remember to Conserve

Finally a note of caution; a recent study shows that most people use more energy because they have converted to energy efficient bulbs. One survey put the number at nearly 60% of people who are getting higher energy bills despite having gone EE. The problem is that too many are forgetting to conserve energy.

Instead, because LEDs last longer and use less energy, many people are using them more, which of course, is resulting in bigger bills. Remember when maintaining energy efficiency that you also have to remember to conserve energy as well.

How to Improve the Indoor Air Quality in Your Home

As anyone with environmental allergies or asthma will tell you, air quality can dramatically impact one’s overall health and wellness. While changing the air around you may seem like an enormous task, there’s many small steps you can take that will have a huge impact on you and your family’s overall well-being. So in honor of Air Quality Awareness Week (yes, that’s a thing), we’ve compiled a list of ways to make the air you breathe a little cleaner.

1.) Clean Your Floors

Most of the dirt and debris in homes collects on the floors. In addition to regularly vacuuming (we recommend using a machine with a HEPA filter) and washing your floors, you should have your carpets professionally cleaned once a year to improve air quality.

2.) Clean/Replace Your Air Filters

Many homeowners forget to maintain the air filters in their heating and cooling systems, but deferring this can lead to poor air quality throughout your entire house. To avoid exposure to dust and allergens, clean or replace your air filters every 90 days for a regular home, every 60 days if you have a cat or dog, and every 30 days if you have multiple pets or a family member with severe allergies. If it’s been a few years, you may want to consider having your air ducts professionally cleaned as well.

3.) Add Plants to Your Home

There are a number of air purifying plants that can both clean the air you breathe and add an elegant touch to your home’s decor. Here’s a list a of 9 that have a bonus value of being difficult to kill.

4.) Replace Chemical Products With Natural Solutions

Now is as good a time as any to dig through your cabinets and dispose of household chemicals. Using natural products throughout your home will not only improve your air quality, but will make it less toxic for small children and pets.

Keep in mind that you can’t just toss these products in the garbage or flush them down the sink. Most communities have local businesses or dedicated centers where you can drop off hazardous waste. You might even have a hazardous waste pick-up day for your neighborhood.

5.) Ditch the Artificial Scents

According to WebMD, “synthetic fragrances in laundry products and air fresheners emit dozens of different chemicals into the air.” So while you are gathering up your household chemicals, make sure to toss in any aerosol sprays, plug-in air fresheners, or scented detergents. Instead open some windows, set out a bouquet of fresh flowers, and clean with natural solutions like lemon juice and baking soda to keep your home smelling fresh.
Do you have any air purifying tips that work for you? Tell us on Facebook or Twitter. We’d love to hear your advice.

Natural Ways to Treat the Most Common Household Pests

Pests are a common household problem. But how you approach that problem, could mean the difference between a comfortable, happy life or one of constant misery.

The Top Three Most Common Household Pests

There are plenty of household pests causing people all sorts of problems. However, the top three most common are:

  • Spiders
  • Ants
  • Fleas

Therefore, we are going to give you several natural methods you can use to get rid of them.

Preventing the Most Common Household Pests

Sometimes it’s possible to get rid of spiders, ants, and fleas using natural methods. And sometimes, depending on the severity and where you live, you might have to call in a professional. However, you can start with trying to address the situation yourself. Then, if it becomes apparent you are going to need some help, don’t hesitate to contact your local pest control company for assistance.

Natural Ways to Treat Pests_Spiders

Natural Pest Control Methods for Spiders

We all know that spiders are beneficial and a necessary part of our environment. However, most of us don’t really want them hanging around our house. So here are a few harmless ways to keep spiders out of your home.

  • Peppermint. Spiders hate peppermint; therefore, you can buy some peppermint essential oil, put it in a spray bottle and apply it around your home. And it smells great too!
  • Vinegar. White vinegar works beautifully for repelling spiders. Just put a 50/50 mixture of vinegar and water and spray it around your home concentrating on the cracks and crevices. Yes, it does have an unpleasant odor, but don’t worry the smell doesn’t linger for very long.
  • Citrus. Yep, you got it. Spiders hate citrus as well. Take some citrus peels and rub them on the areas where spiders are known to frequent. Another option that works equally as well, and is a bit more convenient, is using lemon scented furniture polish as that same citrus scent will help repel spiders as well.
  • Chestnuts. We know this sounds a little odd, but chestnuts can also repel spiders and they last a long time before going bad. You simply place a few chestnuts around your home. For example, you can put them on your windowsills, along your baseboards, in your storage cabinets, or anywhere else spiders like to hang out.
  • Cedar. Cedar also works great for repelling spiders. Just take some cedar mulch and put it down around the perimeter of your home and this will help keep them from getting inside. You can also put some cedar blocks or shavings inside your home to repel spiders there as well.

Natural Ways to Treat Pests_Ants

Natural Pest Control Methods for Ants

There are many different kinds of ants. However, these particular natural methods for controlling ants will work for killing fire ants, black ants, carpenter ants and sugar ants.

  • Place cayenne pepper where you see the ants.
  • Spray lemon juice onto the trail of ants. The ants will then get this on their antenna which will, in turn, pollute and kill the entire colony.
  • Lemon juice and bay leaves. Make this into a paste and place the mixture where you see ants.
  • Spray a 50/50 mixture of vinegar and water and spray it directly onto the ants to kill them.
  • Use food-grade Diatomaceous Earth and place it around the affected areas. The DE will dry out the exoskeleton of the ants and kill them.

Horse Apples

Natural Pest Control Methods for Fleas

Fleas are probably one of the hardest pests to control. However, it can be done, but you have to be diligent as it will generally require several repeated treatments before you will be rid of them completely.

  • Food-grade Diatomaceous Earth works for fleas just like it does for ants, which is by drying out their exoskeleton. You can also use boric acid, which has the same drying effect and will handily kill fleas. Just sprinkle whichever substance you’ve chosen onto your carpet and work it in with a broom and let it sit for 12-48 hours. Then vacuum and repeat the process after two weeks. Please note, however, that DE could possibly damage some vacuum cleaners so you might want to use a Shop-Vac instead for the first post-treatment vacuuming.
  • Horse apples can be used for flea control. Take whole horse apples and cut them into halves. Then place the apple halves all around your home. This method lasts for approximately two to three months when in an air-conditioned environment.
  • Plain old table salt works wonders for getting rid of fleas. You just sprinkle salt on your carpets, floors and around your baseboards. This method works by drying out the exoskeleton of the fleas which kills them.

The Bottom Line

Pest control can be a time-consuming task; however, it’s a necessary one if you want to keep pests from invading your home. But no matter which pest control method you’ve chosen to use, there might be times when you will have to call in a professional. Especially if you don’t have the time or patience for treating and retreating your home for pests. And that’s OK. Many people find that using a professional is a much quicker, easier route to go. You just have to decide which method is best for you and your particular situation.

 


 

If you liked this article, you might find our earlier post helpful as well: How to Prevent Pest Problems

10-Minute Fixes to Improve Energy Efficiency this Weekend

Have you got about an hour? That’s all you’ll need this weekend to make these five 10-minute fixes that will improve your home’s energy efficiency —resulting in potentially hundreds of dollars in savings.

1.) Unplug Things that Sap Energy

The Energy Department provides a handy visual guide for just how much those little appliances that you keep plugged in at all times are costing you. Whether they are actually turned on or not, little electrical pulses are still flowing through the outlet that they are plugged in, increasing your overall energy costs.

Turn off and unplug TVs in rooms where no one is watching. Unplug your toaster, computers, portable stereos, and other electronics when not in use to immediately start bringing down your electric bill. Take ten minutes this weekend to pick the items that should be unplugged and do it.

2.) Automate as Many Things as You Can (Like your thermostat!)

Technology has made it even easier to mind your electricity use, ironically considering most technology runs on electricity. Still, when you can program your thermostat and HVAC systems, you can potentially knock a huge chunk out of your energy bill.

By far, heating and cooling eats up the majority of your energy budget, accounting for 40% of all energy consumption in the average household. Turning it down by just one degree can cut that 40% down by 1%. Lights and sprinklers are programmable now. Automate these tiny energy wasters today if you can.

3.) Vacuum Your Vents and Air Filters

Clogged filters are a huge energy guzzler. When your vents are clogged, your air conditioning unit has to work twice as hard to cool the place down (and vice versa in the winter). Cleaning your vents and air filters regularly can cut your energy waste by 15%. Clean them this weekend but replace them every three months for maximum effect.

4.) Caulk Windows and Doors in Drafty Rooms

Is there a particularly drafty room in your house? Hundreds of dollars a year are escaping from some crack in there every year. Take 10 minutes to walk around your house with a caulk gun inspecting the air around your windows, doors, and any cracks in the foundation, filling them as you go.

5.) Swap Out Halogen and Incandescent Bulbs for EE Ones

When you go on an errand this weekend, don’t forget to pick up some energy efficient bulbs; enough to replace all of your halogen and incandescent ones. Take ten minutes by yourself or with your family to replace old bulbs in each room with energy efficient ones to reduce each light’s energy use by 75%!

6 Cost-Effective Home Security Upgrades Every Homeowner Should Take Advantage Of

Every single homeowner knows that timely upgrades are a part of owning a home. Some people view upgrades as a burden because they can be expensive, especially if you are undertaking a major project. However, home upgrades don’t always need to be a hassle. These upgrades can be easy, and they can be done in a cost-effective manner. In this post, we will be discussing some cost-effective home security upgrades that every homeowner should take advantage of at some point. These upgrades will not break the bank, but they will help you keep your home and your family secure.

teal-door-with-peephole

1. Door Upgrades

When it comes to home security, your strong doors are essential. This is the reason why it is always important to make sure that your doors (and all the components that come together to make it work) are always in tip-top shape and functioning at full capacity.

The first door upgrade should involve setting up a maintenance schedule (which is completely free). If you properly maintain your doors, door locks, and doorframes, your door will end up lasting much longer. That means that you will get the most out of the door while saving money and staying secure.

Next up, homeowners should look to upgrade their door locks. Ideally, you should have Grade 1 deadbolts installed to offer you a maximum amount of security. To make your deadbolts stronger, use 3-inch screws in your strike plates. This will make your locks much more resistant to any force exerted on them. In addition, you should use longer screws in your door hinges, which will secure them deeper into the doorframe, hence bolstering their security.

Another simple cost-effective door upgrade is the installation of a peephole. This simple action prevents any surprise attacks and reduces the chance of a burglar catching homeowners off guard. This can easily be accomplished with a drill and a peephole, which you can get at your local hardware store.

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2. Window Upgrades

Upgrading the security of your windows is just as important as upgrading the security of your doors. There are times when even the most security-minded homeowners neglect their windows. However, burglars pay close attention to your windows, even when you don’t. Windows are, statistically, a favored entry point among burglars so they should be high on your list of priorities when the time comes for upgrades.

Chances are, there are a few of your windows that do not have any locks. If this is the case, now is the time to upgrade. Installing window locks does not require a huge financial investment, it merely requires the time. One simple cost-effective measure that can be employed simply involves installing your window locks on the interior of your home. This will prevent burglars from being able to access your window screws/locks from the exterior of your home. This concept applies to both the locks and hinges (for both the window and the window locks).

Another cost-effective upgrade that comes in handy is the use of security film to reinforce glass windows. This simple measure makes it much harder for burglars to gain entry into your home by breaking through your windows. There are some expensive glass films on the market, but there are cheaper versions that run as low as $14. Even at a lower cost, these are still very effective in boosting your home security.

Homeowners can also secure their sliding windows by placing bars within the tracks to prevent anyone from opening the window from the exterior. Finally, another cost-effective addition is the inclusion of security bars. This might sound expensive, but you can get the required material at your local hardware store, and they can easily be installed by even the most novice DIY homeowner. If you are not comfortable handling these installations yourself, a locksmith can always help you repair and install window locks.

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3. Landscape Upgrades

Home security does not always entail locking things up. Sometimes safety can involve using the environment to your advantage. This is where landscaping comes into play. The layout of your exterior can either be to your advantage or to your detriment, so it is important to pay close attention to it.

One upgrade that you can take advantage of is to simply place thorny plants under easily reached windows. This will serve as a natural barrier to anyone attempting to climb up through your windows. Also, if you have a driveway leading up to your home, make sure that you use gravel and loose stones to your advantage. These can be placed along the walkway so that there is always an indication that someone is approaching. Furthermore, utilizing exterior motion sensor lights will help alert you to any exterior movement.

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4. Surveillance Upgrades

Do not let the word surveillance scare you away. There is a common misconception that every means of surveillance is extremely expensive. However, thanks to many technological advancements, there are many easy to install DIY cameras that are available for homeowners to choose from.

Compared to subscribing to a surveillance service, these DIY options are affordable and are meant to meet homeowners at their point of need. A majority of these cameras are easy to install and operate. They come with many features (like remote monitoring capabilities), which allow you to fine tune and customize your surveillance and your home security.

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5. Alarm System Upgrades

As I mentioned up above, do not be scared by the name of this section. There are many affordable alarm options that homeowners can choose from. With this selection, you can pick the product that fits your needs and budget. My personal suggestion is that you choose an easy-to-use hub, which will allow you to monitor window and door sensors, as well as connect to your surveillance cameras.

This gives you the freedom to select the parts of an alarm that you want to be installed, rather than settling for what some alarm company might give you. Window and door sensors can be incorporated into your alarm, and these can be used to set the groundwork for a basic alarm system.

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6. Valuable Storage Upgrades

One of the main reasons why people employ home security measures is to prevent burglary. However, there are times when burglars can still foil the best-laid plans, so it is important to have contingencies in place. In this instance, the contingency plan refers to properly storing your valuable items away so that they are not left exposed. This is a very effective measure that people do not use enough.

One of the cheapest options to help you accomplish this is a lockbox. However, if you have a little more to spend, a safe will be more secure. These measures will help you keep your valuable items secure and out of sight which will make it much harder for burglars to get to, hence increasing your home security.

Although, you do not necessarily have to use any of these to keep your valuables secure, just make sure that they are obscure enough and well hidden. There is no cost for a good hiding spot.

Conclusion

It is always important to make sure that you are keeping an eye on your home so that you know exactly when you are due for some upgrades. A majority of these tasks do not take up too much time, and can even be tackled on a weekend. Even though this post focuses specifically on home security upgrades, it is important to apply the same mindset to other facets of the home. One thing that will always help you stay abreast with necessary upgrades is establishing a maintenance schedule. This will give you the opportunity to see how your security measures are holding up. It will also help you map out any changes that need to be made. Remember, this does not mean that you should neglect more expensive, but necessary, home maintenance tasks. It simply is meant to help you get an upgrade without spending too much money.