LET EARTH DAY 2014 INSPIRE YOU!

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].

Spring Ahead & Save Money!

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.

12 Simple Ways To Save Money On Utilities (and the planet)

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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).
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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?
  9. Insulate your garage door. It works wonders for controlling the temperature in a room above the garage.
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. 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. 

Keeping your home — and wallet — comfortable

BBC Capital

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.

EXTREME COLD WEATHER HOUSHOLD TIPS

Tips to avoid plumbing issues:

  1. Let water drip from a fixture that is the furthest away from the water supply line to prevent frozen water pipes & breaks in your home.
  2. Leave cabinet doors open under the sinks so heat from the room reaches the pipes.
  3. Make sure the water is turned off to outside spigots, remove hoses/attachments and cover spigot.
  4. Locate your emergency water shut-off valve in case a water pipe freezes and breaks.
  5. Never turn off your heat during cold weather.
  6. Make sure your thermostat is in good working order and change batteries annually. Amazon is a good place to get a new affordable & reliable programmable thermostat that helps you save money by reducing your heating bills.  Click here for more info.

Did your New Year resolutions make our top ten list?

New Year’s Eve has always been a time for looking back to the past, and more importantly, forward to the coming year. It’s a time to reflect on the changes we want (or need) to make and resolve to follow through on those changes. Did your New Year resolutions make our top ten list?

  1. Spend More Time with Family & Friends Recent polls conducted by General Nutrition Centers, Quicken, and others shows that more than 50% of Americans vow to appreciate loved ones and spend more time with family and friends this year. Make plans to meet up with friends for an evening of camaraderie at a favorite restaurant or someone’s home. Work shouldn’t always come first!
  2. Fit In Fitness The evidence is in for fitness. Regular exercise has been associated with more health benefits than anything else known to man. Studies show that it reduces the risk of some cancers, increases longevity, helps achieve and maintain weight loss, enhances mood, lowers blood pressure, and even improves arthritis. In short, exercise keeps you healthy and makes you look and feel better. Why not make this the time to start getting in shape.
  3. Tame the Bulge Over 66 percent of adult Americans are considered overweight or obese by recent studies, so it is not surprising to find that weight loss is one of the most popular New Year’s resolutions. Setting reasonable goals and staying focused are the two most important factors in sticking with a weight loss program, and the key to success for those millions of Americans who made a New Year’s commitment to shed extra pounds.
  4. Quit Smoking If you have resolved to make this the year that you stamp out your smoking habit, over-the-counter availability of nicotine replacement therapy now provides easier access to proven quit-smoking aids. Even if you’ve tried to quit before and failed, don’t let it get you down. On average, smokers try about four times before they quit for good. Start enjoying the rest of your smoke-free life.
  5. Enjoy Life More Given the hectic, stressful lifestyles of millions of Americans, it is no wonder that “enjoying life more” has become a popular resolution in recent years. It’s an important step to a happier and healthier you! Beyond considering a product designed to bring balance to your body, mind and soul, just get out and try something new! Take up a new hobby. It can be as adventurous as trying your hand at skiing or more relaxing like collecting stamps. Go to a theater performance, or head to the local spa. Check local papers and websites. They offer a wealth of artistic and recreational activities to meet just about anyone’s wishes.
  6. Quit Drinking While many people use the New Year as an incentive to finally stop drinking, most are not equipped to make such a drastic lifestyle change all at once. Many heavy drinkers fail to quit cold turkey but do much better when they taper gradually, or even learn to moderate their drinking. If you have decided that you want to stop drinking, there is a world of help and support available. Alcoholics Anonymous offers meetings throughout the country. There are groups for Parents of Teenage Alcohol and Drug Abusers. There are also a number of treatment-based programs, as well as support groups for families of alcoholics.
  7. Get Out of Debt Was money a big source of stress in your life last year? Join the millions of Americans who have resolved to spend this year getting a handle on their finances. It’s a promise that will repay itself many times over in the year ahead. Start by making small steps to save money. Look around your house and I bet you can find a few simple ways to cut back and save. Turn off light s you’re not using.  Turn back the thermostat a few degrees.  A programmable thermostat will do this automatically for you!   Clean out the attic or basement and have a garage/yard sale. If it’s too cold for that this time of year, try selling select items on websites like Ebay.
  8. Learn Something New Have you vowed to make this year the year to learn something new? Perhaps you are considering a career change, want to learn a new language, or just how to fix your computer? Whether you take a course or read a book, you’ll find education to be one of the easiest, most motivating New Year’s resolutions to keep. The local community college probably offers a wide variety of courses, and local YMCA’s offer great recreational training for beginners of all ages. Most local colleges and universities offer distance and adult education programs. Or if the arts are more your thing, places such as the local theater or museum offer workshops or adult studio classes.
  9. Help Others A popular, non-selfish New Year’s resolution, volunteerism can take many forms. Whether you choose to spend time helping out at your local library, mentoring a child, or building a house, there are many nonprofit volunteer organizations that could really use your help. Many organizations makes it easy by connecting volunteers with projects to fit practically any schedule. Or if your time is really in short supply, maybe you can at least find it in you to donate the furniture, clothing and other household items that you no longer need, rather than leaving them out by the curb to fill up our landfills.
  10. Get Organized On just about every New Year resolution top ten list, organization can be a very reasonable goal. Whether you want your home organized enough that you can invite someone over on a whim, or your office organized enough that you can find the stapler when you need it, these tips and resources should get you started on the way to a more organized life.  There are professional organizers who can help you reduce the clutter in your life and find peace in your home or office if the task is too overwhelming.

 Make Your Resolutions Stick  Get What You Want Out of the New Year

HAPPY HOLIDAYS!

The holidays are here again. It’s that time of year when spending can easily get out of control. Gifts, gift wrap, greeting cards, household decorations, outfits for holiday photos and parties, and food shopping for holiday meals are at the top of everyone’s lists.

Unfortunately after Santa has arrived and New Year’s has been rung in, many of us are faced with credit card debt and a pile of bills.  Here are a few ways to save during the holidays and start the New Year on the right foot.

  1. Planning ahead can save you in the end. Make a list of people, and then prioritize. This list will also be your gift shopping budget for the holidays. Note how much you are going to spend next to each person’s name. You can even share your holiday gift lists with family and friends online at KeepandShare.com. For budgeting tips, go to Mint.com and check out its easy budgeting tools. Now carry the list and budget with you on your shopping sprees, and stick to it!
  2. Focus on buying for close friends and family. Minimize the number of gifts for acquaintances and coworkers. Also consider buying one large gift that several people on your list can enjoy. Some people would rather get one great gift for the family than 10 little gifts. Groupon.com, with the slogan “collective buying power,” provides bulk discounts. You can sign up at Groupon.com for e-mail alerts of sales going on in your area, such as restaurant or beauty salon discounts, which make ideal gifts to share with family or friends.
  3. Pick a name out of a hat. Whether you come from a large or small family, buying for everyone adds up quickly.  It’s been called Secret Santa, Grab Bag or Pollyanna. But the concept is all the same. You only have to buy a gift for one person. Set a limit on how much you are allowed to spend so everyone is on an even playing field. 
  4. Online coupons are great. Consumers can simply point and click to find online coupons for the product of their choice. Most of these coupon sites provide a coupon code to be used on a retail store’s website. During the online checkout, type the code under the “promo” or “coupon code” heading to receive the discount. On most of these websites, you can register to receive daily or weekly E-mails of coupon specials. Sites like Coupon.com, SmartSource.com, and CouponMom.com are popular for consumers looking for a bargain.
  5. Comparison shop on line. Left with excess inventory last year, retailers are going to sell fewer items in stores this holiday season. As a result, more people are going to go online for research, price comparison, and convenient shopping. One way to do that is through sites like ComparisonShopping.com, which aggregates product search results from the 10 leading websites for price-comparison shopping, including BizRate, PriceGrabber, NexTag, and Shopzilla. These sites have vendor prices, reviews of vendors and items, and product descriptions. Also, visit FreeShipping.org, which provides free shipping coupon codes for more than 1,710 stores. Other websites have threshold free shipping, where shipping doesn’t cost anything after a minimum purchase; Amazon.com, for example, provides free shipping for members whose purchases are over $25.
  6. Homemade gifts, cards, and wrapping paper. Get crafty. Homemade gifts and cards are not only affordable but also fun projects for you and your friends or family to do together. Clip craft stores’ weekly coupons, or visit cheap art supply websites, such as CheapJoes.com, to save on supplies. Instead of buying expensive cards and wrapping paper, make them with colored paper and art supplies. You can put your kids to work with craft ideas from KidsCraftWeekly.com. “If you aren’t so artsy, buy homemade artwork, jewelry, and clothing at Etsy.com, as well as unique art supplies,” says Michelle Madhok, an online shopping expert and founder of shopping websites SheFinds.com and MomFinds.com. If you’re a baker, recipe sites like Epicurious.com have a plethora of seasonal recipes from cookbooks, chefs, and home cooks. Holiday-themed treats are tasty and inexpensive gifts for your friends and family members with a sweet tooth.
  7. Buy gifts that save money.  You don’t have to be buying for the “Do It Yourselfer” in the family or even the frugal family member. Give gifts that people wouldn’t necessarily buy for themselves. Energy saving lightbulbs, a showerhead that saves water, or a programmable thermostat makes a great gift or stocking stuffer.  They’ll be thanking you every month when they see the savings on their utility bill.
  8. Re-gifting. Refer to re-gifting as “gift recycling”. It is easy not only on the wallet but also on the environment, as you are reusing items rather than throwing them away. Avoid the dreaded fruitcake this year, and go for gifts, preferably less personal and unused, such as gift cards, candles, picture frames, and homeware items.
  9. Budget for yourself. Now after all of your generosity, don’t forget to reward yourself. Along with your gift list, budget how much you’d like to spend for yourself. It’s best to decide what you’d like early on, so you can spend time looking for it at the lowest price. If you have a specific gift in mind, you can go to sites like ShopStyle.com, for clothing and fashion accessories, or PriceSpider.com, for electronics, and select items you like. Then the website will send you E-mail alerts whenever your selected item goes on sale.
  10. Happy shopping. Remember to have fun. Shopping for gifts shouldn’t be a dreaded chore. Give yourself plenty of time. Enjoy the crowds and everything that comes along with it. It only comes around once a year.

HAVE A SAFE & PROSPEROUS HOLIDAY SEASON & A HAPPY AND HEALTHY NEW YEAR!

Black Friday & Cyber Monday Thermostat Deals!

Happy Holiday!  For a limited time you can shop the year’s lowest prices programmable thermostats for your home that will save energy and save you money.

  • Lux TX9000TS 7-Day Touch screen programmable thermostat regularly $82.97 now $63.75 with coupon code LUXSPC11
  • Lux TX9100U 7-Day Universal programmable thermostat regularly $65.00 now $48.75 with coupon code LUXSPC12
  • Lux TX1500U 5-1-1 Universal programmable thermostat with filter monitor  regularly $55.00 now $43.75 with coupon code LUXSPC13
  • LUX TX500U 5-2 Universal programmable thermostat regularly $45.00 now $35.75 with coupon code LUXSPC14

… a gift that saves money all year long!

Coupons are applied at final Amazon checkout screen.

Hurry while supplies last.  Limited time offer, ends midnight 12/2/2013.

Good luck and happy Thanksgiving.

TAKE TIME & GIVE THANKS!

Thanksgiving Day is a harvest festival celebrated primarily in the United States and Canada. Traditionally, it is a time to give thanks for the harvest and express gratitude in general. And now during such uncertain times, it is even more important to stop and think about how truly blessed we are. This is the perfect time of year to give to someone else (even if it’s just your time) or help someone in need. Even the smallest gesture could make a huge difference in someone’s life.

IT ONLY TAKES A MINUTE!

Minute timers are simple and useful tools that have been around since 1935. They’re one of those items you see every day and probably not think too much about it. But thee are tons of things that a minute timer can be used for. And in a time of computers and complicated technology, it’s nice to have something that’s simple, helpful and reliable.

MORE THAN MAKING THAT PERFECT TURKEY!

Over the years a LUX Minute Minder Timer has been used for lots of things other than cooking.

Here are just a few ideas:

  • Use it for coloring or putting a perm in you hair, so there’s no worry about over-processing.
  • Use it for timing how long to exercise. No getting off that bike to answer phones or check e-mail until that bell rings.
  • Use it for testing children. Great for teachers in school, and great for allotting time to do homework
  • Use it for limiting your kid’s time on computers, cell phones and video games.
  • Use it to limit time in the bathroom getting kids ready in the morning for school. Putting time limits on showers prevents morning chaos and saves hot water. It adds up to huge savings on the utility bill.
  • Use it to time your parking meter. Set it when you put your money in the meter so you don’t have to worry about getting a ticket. You’ll know when to put more coins in or move your car.
  • Use it for getting the perfect tan. Set the timer for thirty minutes so you know when to flip to the other side.
  • Use it when you have barbecues/pool parties to let the kids know when they’re allowed to go back in the water.
  • Use it for setting specific time to work on projects. It’s easy to procrastinate starting or even finishing a project if you keep checking voicemails and e-mails. If you set a timer, it will force you to get a chunk of work done without interruptions.
  • Use it for setting specific time to return phone calls and e-mails so you’re not constantly being interrupted during work, meals and quality time with family.
  • Check out some more ideas [MORE].

Have a use for this old favorite? Let us know.

IT’S TIME TO FEAST!

Whether hosting your first holiday feast or you’re a seasoned pro, it can be daunting. A menu of familiar dishes for which everyone will have expectations, plus the pressure of executing a complicated meal in a timely manner, can make event the most experienced cook wish someone else would take over [MORE].

A kitchen timer is a necessary tool for such a big meal [Get yours at Amazon]. You not only need to know how long to cook a turkey, but how long to let it cool before carving.

“We have many tips for a successful Thanksgiving, but our top recommendation is to rest your turkey. We (spend) weeks trying to decide how to cook the turkey every year—brine, roast, fry? How long should we cook it, and what’s the best turkey to buy? But if you don’t rest your turkey long enough (once it comes out of the oven), you’re throwing all of your expert technique out the window. You should rest your turkey for approximately 40 percent of your total cooking time.  So be sure to rest it in a warm place and allow plenty of time for the whole process.

Source: Karen & Quinn Hatfield

Chefs, Hatfield’s, Los Angeles

GET A SEASON’S WORTH OF SAVINGS AND PEACE OF MIND!

So you’ve started pulling those sweaters out of mothballs and started seeing holiday decorations in stores … have you thought about getting your house ready for the cold months ahead?

It’s easier to get through the long winter months with peace of mind and money in your pockets, if you start preparing now and not at the last minute.

Here’s a boiled down Fall to-do list in 10 easy steps:

  1.  Clean gutters: Once the leaves fall, remove them and any other debris from your drainage gutters, so snow and winter rain can drain out and away from your house.  Clogged drains can for ice dams. When water freezes and backs up, water can seep into the house.
  2. Block leaks:  The average American home has leaks that amount to a nine-square-foot hole in the wall!  An easy way to find leaks is to walk around your house on a breezy day with a lit incense stick. The most common drafty areas are: recessed lighting, window/door frames, and electrical outlets.Use door sweeps for door drafts and caulk for other drafty spots.  Use weather-resistant caulk for outside. Even if you think a crack is too small, it’s worth sealing up. It also discourages insects from finding a warm hiding place.
  3. Insulate yourself:  A great fix that costs little money is adding insulation to your attic. Regardless of your climate, you need 12 inches of insulation in your attic. If you can see ceiling joints, you don’t have enough.
  4. Face your windows:  It’s time to take down window screens and put up storm windows, which provide an extra layer of protection and warmth in your home. Of course windows are pricey, so if you can’t afford to replace old drafty windows this season, you can purchase a plastic window insulation kit for cheap, which will help cut down on those heating bills.
  5. Wrap those pipes:  A burst pipe caused by a winter freeze can be a nightmare.  Before freezing nights hit, make sure all outside water lines are drained and shut off(hoses, sprinklers, etc). Also, go around your house and check to see if there are any pipes that are not insulated or pass through unheated spaces (crawlspaces, basements, garages) and be sure to wrap them. Pre-slit pipe foam can be cheaply purchased at any hardware store.
  6. Reverse that fan:  Reversing your ceiling fan is a small tip that people don’t often  think of.  By reversing its direction from the summer operation, the fan will push warm air downward and force it to re-circulate, keeping you more comfortable.
  7. Get your ducts in a row:  According to the U.S. Department of Energy, a home with central heating can lose up to 60% of its heated air before that air reaches the vents if ductwork is not well connected and insulated, or if it must travel through unheated spaces.  That’s a huge amount of wasted money! You can often see exposed ducts in attics, basements, and crawlspaces.Ducts should also be vacuumed out once a year to clean out abundant dust, animal hair and other allergens that cause respiratory problems.
  8. Mind that thermostat:  It’s easy to forget to turn down the heat when you leave the building, but doing so is one of the surest ways to save money.  Most households shell out 50 to 70% of their energy budgets of heating and cooling, so why pay for what no one uses? For every degree you lower the thermostat during heating season, you’ll save between 1 and 3% of your heating bill. Make it easier with a Lux programmable thermostat. They are widely available and come in many models with a variety of features that will best suit your family’s needs.
  9. Check the furnace:  First, turn your furnace on to make sure it’s even working. If strong odor persists  for a lengthy period of time, turn it off and call a professional. Furnace filters should be changed once a month during winter. Dirty filters restrict air flow and increase energy demand causing your heating bills to skyrocket. Worst cases, dirty, clogged filters can even cause a house fire.
  10. Finally, check those alarms:  This is a great time to check the operation, and change batteries of smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors. Also check  to see that your fire extinguisher is still where it should be, and still works.