It’s that time of year again. The pools are closed, the days get shorter, the alarm clocks ring earlier, and the schedules get crazier.
The hardest part is getting back into the swing of things after months off from hectic days of scheduled classes, sports practice, homework and other extracurricular activities.
Here are some tips to make this difficult transition a little easier:
- Prepare for the flood of paper. There are always tons of papers that seem to appear when the kids go back to school: permission slips, health forms, school supplies lists. Set up a filing system or scan them into your computer so things don’t get misplaced or are easily found when things get hectic.
- Post your children’s class schedule where’s it’s easily seen. Color code each child or specific activities so there are no conflicts when scheduling.
- Create a homework station. Have an assigned clean area with no distractions for the kids to do their homework. Put all the supplies they would need in a central location, so they’re easily accessible. It’s also good for you to be able to walk by periodically and check on their work.
- Avoid morning chaos. Set the family table for breakfast the night before. Get lunches packed or leave lunch money out so you’re not frantic or forgetting when the kids are rushing off to school. Pick out outfits or lay out clothing in the evening so there are no arguments in the morning when you’re pressed for time.
- Plan a bathroom schedule. Anyone who is in a multi-child household knows how crazy the morning can be when sharing or waiting to use the bathroom. Get a timer (Amazon offer good deals on timers) and put a limit on how much time each child has to get ready.
- Shop the closets. Before hitting stores, take a good look a what’s already there. Do an inventory and make a list, this way you’re not spending extra money on things your kids already have. There may be clothes that are trendy again, or even things you can donate.
- Keep receipts. Colored pens look cool in the store, but the teacher may request that students use pencil only. If you have to return anything, you’ll be able to get your money back.
- Start interviewing babysitters. Knowing there are people who your children are comfortable with will make it much easier when you have “Back To School” night, parent-teacher meetings other events when you’ll have to leave the kids a home.
- Now that you’re not seeing your kids as much, make it a point to set aside quality time to spend with them. Don’t answer cell phones or watch TV. Ask about their day, friends and school projects.
- Take it all in stride. It’s easy to give advice, but things happen that throw the best laid out schedules into havoc. Knowing that this happens will help you cope better when it does. What is hectic now becomes fond memories later. Enjoy every moment…it goes by so fast!
Here is a a great back to school special to help you save money on your heating and cooling bills during the school year and receive a FREE cool 60 minute red apple teacher timer. Offer valid at the Lux Products Amazon Storefront: Buy one Lux TX9000TS Touch Screen Seven-Day Programmable Thermostat and receive one free 60 Minute Teacher Timer (Red Apple). Put both items in your shopping cart and then at check-out enter coupon code: LUXAPPLE to get your FREE Red Apple timer! This is a limited time offer ending at the start of the school year!
Buy the Lux TX900TS Touch Screen Thermostat (saves energy and money!)
And get this FREE 60-Minute Red Apple Timer!
As the summer slowly winds down, hurricane and tropical storm season pick up. The damage that rough weather can inflict on your home and HVAC system can cause headaches in the aftermath, so it’s important to make sure your home is protected.
Most people who have ever been through a hurricane know the routine: bring in the plants and outdoor furniture, tape or board up your windows, stock up on candles, flashlights and non-perishable food. Quite often however, your HVAC system is overlooked.
Obviously, you can’t relocate your outside HVAC system, so it’s best to cover it securely to protect your equipment from harsh rains and falling debris.
Have a thermostat installed that has battery back-up power, this way you don’t lose all of your HVAC settings during a power outage (Get a modern energy savings thermostat at Amazon).
If you’re close to the storm, don’t take chances and run any equipment that might burn out. You want your HVAC running long after the rains have stopped. It’s best to simply shut everything down if you anticipate a power outage. This way, you reduce the risk of blowing out circuits and burning out the compressor when the electricity returns.
Once the storm is passed, check your outside equipment for any damage like dents from fallen debris. If you feel there is something obstructing your system and preventing it from working properly, call an HVAC repairman before you turn the system back on.
Here are some additional tips to ensure your HVAC system stays protected in the high winds, falling debris, and dangerous lightening.
HVAC To-Do List for Hurricane Preparation:
- Turn your AC unit off prior to a severe storm.
- If you have a window unit, unplug it entirely.
- Cover your outside unit and make sure it’s secure.
- Do not turn your unit back on immediately following a storm or hurricane.
- Inspect the unit and surrounding area first to ensure it’s in proper working condition.
- Remember, before turning your HVAC system back on, to always uncover your outdoor unit.
Remember, as you make plans and prepare your emergency hurricane kits, take care to watch your heating and cooling systems. You’ve spent a lot of money having these systems installed and maintained. With the proper precautions you can protect your investment and avoid coming home to an unpleasant situation.
Another way to cut your AC expense is to install an attic gable fan. Below is an example of an install a reader sent us from the Philadelphia area. This install was done with a fan that the home owner already had and a new WIN100 outlet controlled thermostat from Lux Products as seen in this photo.
Another use for Lux WIN100 Outlet Controlled Thermostat controlling an attic gable fan
The home owner set the WIN100 to kick on the attic fan at 90 degree. Once the gable fan starts running, it pushes super hot air out of the attic space. The home owner has reported his 2nd floor is now much cooler and the central air does not have to run as much; also this has helped better “BALANCE” the building temperature; for prior to installing the gable fan, the 1st floor was cool and the 2nd floor was always much warmer.
Get a good deal on a LUX WIN100 outlet controlled thermostat at AMAZON.
Forecasters are saying that after a long cold winter, we should be preparing for a long hot summer. The recent summer-like temperatures means higher utility bills already. Here’s a few tips that can help you save money during the upcoming summer months.
- Turn off the air conditioning. This doesn’t mean you have to suffer through sweltering heat, but you should be aware of the weather so that you can maximize efficiency and save money by using it only when needed. For example, if it is going to be a cool night, turn off the air before heading to bed and open a few windows.
- Get window wise. During those scorching days, or before you leave for work in the morning, close your curtains and blinds to prevent the sun from beating down into the rooms and needlessly warming your home. Bonus: It will reduce fading of upholstery and rugs.
- Get with the program! Installing a programmable thermostat will help save big bucks on your air conditioning bill (Get a good deal on a programmable thermostat at Amazon). You can program your HVAC system to run less while you’re at work or on vacation and have it run more to cool your home just before you get home.
- Replace your air conditioner filters. This can be easy to overlook, but a dirty filter can increase cooling costs. Dirty filters restrict the airflow and the efficiency of the air conditioner, which translates into more run time and higher cooling costs. Filters are cheap, so replace them regularly.
- Insulate intelligently. You know the feeling — somehow, it always seems 10 degrees hotter upstairs than it does in your living room. Reduce the effect of the sun’s sizzling rays by insulating your attic. This will prevent the heat that builds up on top from filtering down into the rest of the house.
- Keep lamps and TV’s far from the thermostat. Sure, they provide light to read by and your favorite reality shows, but they also exude heat, causing your AC to run overtime. Place the standing lamps and television across the room if you can and consider switching to compact fluorescent bulbs, which generate less heat, last longer and use less energy than incandescent bulbs.
- Make use of your microwave. Prepping dinner? Not only is it quicker and a lot more convenient, but four minutes in the microwave will generate much less heat than a half hour in the oven.
- Cook outside. Using the stove or baking in the oven can create a lot of excess heat that has nowhere to go except in your house. Consider taking meal plans to the barbecue grill outside so that you can keep your cool inside.
- Let your laundry dry outside. If you have the ability to hang up laundry outside, let the sun and warm summer breeze do the drying for you. Even if you can’t hang up clothes outside, try using your dryer on a lower heat setting or only partially drying your shirts and letting them air dry the rest of the way.
- Plant a tree. Plant deciduous trees (those that shed their leaves in the winter, like a maple) by the south and west sides of your home to shade windows from heat. In the winter, their bare branches will allow sunlight to stream into your home for added warmth. Also consider planting trees or shrubs near your AC unit. It will use less electricity when operating under the shade.
No need to swoon from the heat, or your sky-high electric bill! Hope these tips help to stay cool and calm during the dog days of summer.
Start stockpiling tissues…the worst winter in years is about to give way to the worst allergy season. Allergists are predicting a sneezy spring because of the long, cold winter and higher-than-average snowfall.
Approximately 36 million Americans suffer from seasonal allergies and this year will be especially tough.
Although we cannot control Mother Nature, there is plenty you can do make your home more comfortable by reducing allergens and irritants and preventing them from making your home a permanent staycation.
Recognizing the importance of indoor quality is imperative. Allergies, asthma, eczema, headaches, dizziness, fatigue, sinusitis, and bronchial problems are all medical conditions that have been linked to poor indoor air quality. Indoor air can be 5 times more polluted than the air outside. The EPA ranks indoor air as one of the top 5 environmental risks to public health.
Here are some simple steps to make the air you family breathes cleaner and healthier:
- Controlling the temperature in your home is a great way to control allergens. If you have a programmable thermostat, set the temperature to 70 during the day and 65during the night. Make sure to keep an eye on the humidity level also, no lower than 40 or 50. Don’t have a programmable thermostat? You can get one here at Amazon.
- Change your filters and have your ducts cleaned. Dust, pet dander and mold can collect in filters and ducts if they are not cleaned regularly.
- Vacuum rugs often and have your rugs shampooed. Make sure you check ingredients, as some cleaners have strong odors that can trigger allergies.
- I know pets are like members of the family, but if you are suffering with allergies, try to keep the family cat or dog off furniture that can trap pet hair and pet dander. For example, any place where you rest your head, like a fabric sofa or on the bed, should be kept free of hair.
- Wash bed sheets often. You can also purchase pillow and mattress covers that provide a special barrier against dust mites. Also keep in mind that line drying your clothes and sheets outside is only re-exposing them to everything you just washed off.
- Keep your bathroom clean. Mold grows in damp environments and is a major cause of severe allergies.
- Keep you refrigerator clean. Food that sits beyond its expiration date begins to grow mold. You don’t want that sitting near food you are going to eat.
- Donate or pack up old books. I hang on to those text books from college thinking I may need to refer back to them one day. But old books sitting around on shelves are huge collectors of dust, which increase allergens.
- Be sure to wash your hands often, as this is the fastest way to spread allergens
- *Install a LUX TX1500U fully programmable thermostat (get yours at Amazon). You can set specific temperatures, times and days of the week. And it has a graphical filter monitor which takes the guess-work out of knowing if your circulating air is clean or dirty and let you know when filters need to be cleaned. A programmable thermostat that improves the quality of your air and saves you money!!
Earth Day 2014 is Tuesday April 22nd. Earth day is meant to inspire the public to take better care of the environment and learn to take pride in the environment. The original Earth Day was used as a teaching day to get the public more informed about the environmental impact humans were making.
Since then, the basic message of the day is the same, but it has been taken much further. Since this original celebration Earth Day has become an international holiday. Several environmental groups have also started participating in an Earth week.
During this week, these organizations host several different programs that educate their communities about the different aspects of Earth and how to take better care of Earth. Each year, Earth Day celebrations have become more and more elaborate with an ever increasing audience.
Each year different activities are held to acknowledge Earth Day. Each participating country holds their own activities which can be seen on the international Earth Day webpage [www.earthday.org]. Last year, groups across the globe began to enter into active communication with their government officials concerning environmental policy. These groups began to make moves toward getting schools and business to recycle as well as take other actions towards preserving our environment.
Other, more recreational, activities are also held each year in different parts of the world. Many national parks hold nature walks in hopes that these will inspire more environmental responsibility. Other groups organize clean-ups to clear trash and make the environment more livable.
A big push for more child appropriate programs has also been seen throughout recent years. Nearly every community holds some sort of Earth Day activity. All you have to do is read the local newspaper to find out more. Earth Day 2014 events are nearly always posted far in advance, you just have to look for them [Earth Day Events].
EARTH DAY HISTORY:
Earth day first began in the United States in 1970. This celebration was started by United States Senator Gaylord Nelson on April 22, 1970, after witnessing the ravages of the massive 1969 oil spill in Santa Barbara, California. Although many thought it was just another hippie cause, as it was established at the height of hippie and flower-child culture in the United States. However, with the help of the media, thousands of colleges and universities organized protests against the deterioration of the environment. Groups that had been fighting against oil spills, polluting factories and power plants, raw sewage, toxic dumps, pesticides, freeways, the loss of wilderness, and the extinction of wildlife suddenly realized they shared common values. Over time, the movement expanded beyond colleges campuses to evolve into the global movement it is today. [Read more about the history of Earth Day].
EARTH DAY RESOLUTIONS:
We cannot ensure a safe and clean planet for future generations if we think about environmental issues for one day only. We must think ‘green’ every day of the year. Decide now to start small with an easy resolution to make ‘green’ part of your daily routine. A few simple ways to start: turn off lights and appliances when not in use, recycle(simply throw your plastic bottles in a separate container than your trash), take a walk instead of driving to your destination. Use Energy Star appliances. Things as simple as installing a programmable thermostat can save energy, the environment and you money [Get a programmable thermostat at Amazon].
EARTH DAY ACTIVITIES FOR KIDS:
Our children are the leaders of the future. It is important that they learn the importance of the environment now, instead of waiting until they have grown. There is no better way to teach children than to make crafts and play educational games [Earth Day Activities for Kids].
In the U.S., daylight saving time was first used during World War I to conserve resources. It was reinstated again during World War II until September 1945. The Uniform Time Act of 1966 created a standardized system to observe daylight saving time.
So how does it affect us today? The Department of Energy studied the amount of energy savings in 2008. They found that during daylight saving time, U.S. electricity use decreased by 0.5 percent per day. That doesn’t seem like much, but over time it added up to 1.3 billion kilowatt-hours. That’s enough to power about 122,000 average U.S. homes per year.
These electricity savings generally occur during a three- to five-hour
period in the evening. To learn how you can save energy during
Daylight Saving Time, visit Energy Saver.
Daylight Savings Is Our Little Reminder:
The National Fire Protection Association and the U.S. Consumer
Product Safety Commission recommend that consumers change the
battery in smoke and carbon monoxide detectors when we change the
clocks for Daylight Savings Time.
This is a great reminder to test and change batteries all around your home. While you’ve got the ladder out to check your smoke detectors, why not change a bulb? Switching to energy efficient bulbs in your ceiling fixtures could save you $30 a year PER BULB on your electricity bill. Energy efficient lighting is particularly important in the fall when Daylight Saving Time ends and the days are shorter. The latest generation of energy-saving lighting includes compact fluorescent bulbs that fit in standard light sockets and provide pleasant, uniform light, as well as LED lighting and halogen bulbs.
Change the batteries in your thermostat. Don’t wait until the last minute and end up without air or heat. Changing your thermostat batteries regularly will keep your home temperature running smoothly. If you don’t already have one, install a programmable thermostat. A Lux programmable thermostat is ideal for people who are away from home during set periods of time throughout the week. Through proper use of pre-programmed settings, a programmable thermostat can save you about $180 every year in energy costs [Get programmable thermostat at Amazon].
A Few More Reminders……
Check your filter every month, especially during heavy use months (winter and summer). If the filter looks dirty after a month, change it. At a minimum, change the filter every 3 months. A dirty filter will slow down air flow and make the system work harder to keep you warm or cool — wasting energy. A clean filter will also prevent dust and dirt from building up in the system — leading to expensive maintenance and/or early system failure.
Tune up your HVAC equipment. Just as a tune-up for your car can improve your gas mileage, a yearly tune-up of your heating and cooling system can improve efficiency and comfort. Learn more: Maintain your Equipment: A Checklist
Seal your heating and cooling ducts. Ducts that move air to-and-from a forced air furnace, central air conditioner, or heat pump are often big energy wasters. Sealing and insulating ducts can improve the efficiency of your heating and cooling system by as much as 20 percent — and sometimes much more. Focus first on sealing ducts that run through the attic, crawlspace, unheated basement, or garage. Use duct sealant (mastic) or metal-backed (foil) tape to seal the seams and connections of ducts. After sealing the ducts in those spaces, wrap them in insulation to keep them from getting hot in the summer or cold in the winter. Next, look to seal any other ducts that you can access in the heated or cooled part of the house.
Hopefully these reminders and energy saving tips will help you save money and help put a smile on your face after such a long, grueling winter.
The other day I decided to tally up the amount of money I’ve spent in various household categories so I could really get a sense of the extent to which small things can add up. One thing that stood out to me is that I’ve spent an average of $150/month on utilities (gas, water, electric). Of course, during that period there were months that were lower and months that were considerably higher. At first glance, that doesn’t sound like a huge amount, but consider this… over a ten year period that works out to roughly $18k — now that will certainly make anyone stop and think!
All of this got me thinking about simple things that people can do to cut their utility expenditures without impacting their comfort level. I’m talking here about ’set-and-forget’ modifications that you put in place once, and then reap the benefits forevermore. What follows is a list of simple suggestions. Some of these are common sense, others are perhaps less obvious. And looking beyond the financial savings, a number of these tricks will improve the comfort of your home, and nearly all of them are also good for the environment.
- Replace your incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs or LEDs. Admittedly, some of these bulbs really take getting used to (weird colored light, dim until they warm up, etc.) but there are some good ones out there. In fact, I’ve had great success with the cheaper multi-packs from Lowes and Home Depot.
- Get a programmable thermostat. (Amazon is a good place to get an affordable programmable thermostat) This is especially useful if you work outside of the home. If that is the case, you can dial back your heating/cooling while you’re at work, but have it automatically back at a comfortable level when you arrive home at the end of the day. Similarly, you can automatically control the temperature while on vacation, weekends or even sleeping. This savings become huge when you don’t have a system that is constantly running and expending energy.
- Put a sealed jar/jug of water, or brick in your toilet tank. Doing so displaces water in the tank and causes you to use less. Of course, too little water when you flush can cause problems, so you’ll have to experiment with this one. But be careful…displacing so much water that you have to flush twice is generally more wasteful than flushing a larger volume once. Or upgrade your toilet to the new dual flush models now available.
- Install aerator screens on all of your faucets. Any reasonably modern house will have aerators on their kitchen and bathroom sinks, but many don’t have them when it comes to laundry or utility sinks. The magic of aerator screens is that they increase the apparent ‘power’ of the stream of water as it comes out of the faucet. Thus, you don’t need to turn the faucet up as high to get the same effect.
- Get a separate water meter for your exterior hose/ sprinkler system. In most locales, your sewer bill is tied to your water usage. Why pay more for sewer service in the summer when much of the water isn’t going down the drain? Many water utilities allow you to have dual meters, only one of which gets billed for sewer service (the one that feeds your house).
- Insulate your attic access. Many people who live in single dwelling homes have trouble balancing the upstairs and downstairs temperature. As it turns out, one of the most frequent problems is the attic. In the winter, cold drafts escape into the main part of the house and in the summer, sweltering heat escaping from the attic prevents you from cooling your house efficiently. Insulating access areas to attic spaces diminishes the problem greatly.
- Balance your vents to achieve an even, comfortable temperature throughout your house. Another problem that many have had in regulating the temperature between our upstairs and downstairs is the vents. After a bit of experimentation, many are able to balance the upstairs/downstairs temps. Again, allowing you to run heat/air more efficiently.
- Weather strip your doors and windows. Just think, a 1/4 inch gap along the bottom of a 3 foot wide door is 9 square inches of open space. If you had a 3 inch x 3 inch hole in one of your exterior walls you’d fix it, wouldn’t you?
- Insulate your garage door. It works wonders for controlling the temperature in a room above the garage.
- Plant trees in strategic locations around your house. This is a longer term solution, but shade trees can keep your house much cooler in the summer without blocking the sun in the winter. Planting trees also helps offset our high-carbon lifestyles. If you don’t have a landscaper, go to your local nursery and talk to them about what types of trees would be best for this purpose as well as what kinds of trees will thrive in your local ground soil and climate.
- Maintain your appliances. Keep your dryer lint free. Not just the lint trap, but the area around the lint trap, the vent hose, and inside the dryer itself. You’d be amazed what can build up in there. Run appliances at night, during “off peak” or “night” rates. Use the delay settings on your clothes washer, dryer, and dish washer. Unplug any appliances you can when you are not using it. Seems silly, but many electrical devices draw power even when they are not turned on.
- This is where you all come in. Instead of ending this list at twelve, I’d love to hear your ’set-and-forget’ tips. I’m sure there’s plenty of money saving tips that I haven’t even thought of. Leave a comment so we can share it.
Whether you live in a part of the world where the mercury is soaring, or where frigid temperatures are settling in for the next few months, there is one thing you can be certain of — you’re going to have to pay more to keep your home comfortable [MORE].
A good way to reduce your heating and cooling expense is to install an affordable programmable thermostat which will automatically adjust your home’s temperature according your your individual schedule. Amazon is a good place to get a programmable thermostat.